Barbers receive mental health support training

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 8:00 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some of the state’s barbers and stylists are brushing up on a new type of training. However, this has nothing to do with the latest fades, braids, or styles. They’re learning how they could help bridge the gap with mental health care.

The barbershop chair becomes the equivalent of a therapist’s couch for many men in the black community.

“We do have a lot of clients that come in and just need to have a conversation,” described Ronald Carral. “Takes me back to last week. We had a customer that came in, and he was actually saying that he was on the verge of committing suicide. He called us back the next day and said that he was glad we came in and talked to him the way we did.”

The Confess Project knows those kinds of stories are happening across the country.

“At the end of the day, like I said, they listen to y’all,” said Confess Project Chief of People Officer Darnell Rice. “Because y’all know everybody. You can give advice, but you can give guidance as well.”

The Jackson Heart Study linked up with the Confess Project for this, but they’ve partnered with barbers before for hypertension screenings. That same model is being used for mental health support. The presentation included data about how the black community is less likely to get a diagnosis and treatment for mental health issues. That part isn’t a surprise to the barbers.

“As a barber, a lot of times, you don’t understand the fact that you’re not a counselor. I’m not licensed to do certain things,” said barber Damion Portis. “But you also have to wrestle with the thing that the obvious is where you see the benefit in the conversations that you have with these people.”

“The four principles that we teach are active listening, positive communication, validation, and reducing stigma because, at the end of the day, those barbers are essential and very important to the community,” added Darnell Rice.

But the missing link is sometimes what to do after they realize there’s a need. Now, they’ll be able to provide clients with specific resources.

“If you do not offer the resources along with the education, you’re missing half of the boat,” noted Jacquilyn German, Jackson Heart Study, Community Partnership Director.

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