At Pall Mall Barbers, we’re members of the Lions Barbers Collective, a mental health charity that helps you talk to your barber about mental health issues by training barbers to talk about them. Talking to your barber is a great way to express your emotional state in a setting that’s familiar to you, and without judgement. Our barbers talk all day long, and they have more experience than you might imagine. Whilst barbers are not mental health professionals, they are a great ear for listening.
Mental health issues are silent killers. Statistically, men are less likely than women to be diagnosed with a mental health condition, as men are less likely to visit a doctor to receive a diagnosis. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women, and suicide is the main cause of death of men aged between 20 and 49. Talking to your barber, and having your barber talk with you and listen to your struggles is a great way of addressing some of these issues.
My mental health story
4 years ago, I tried to kill myself.
It was as normal a day as any. I was standing on the platform, waiting for the train to go to work.
I heard an announcement saying to “stand back from the edge of the platform, as the next train is not stopping at this station.” I stepped forward. As I was about to step in front of the train, a hand on my shoulder stopped me and a voice told me not to do it. I burst into tears at the station. The person hugged me, and we got on the next train and went our separate ways. I carried on the journey to work as if nothing had happened.
Work was really difficult at the time. I was being used as a scapegoat for things that didn’t involve me, and the workload was overwhelming for one person. I would go to the toilets and sit in the dark. At home, I felt isolated. I’d moved into a new place and I didn’t know my housemates very well.
That night after I went home (I decided to take the bus rather than the train), I wrote a Facebook post that I never shared. Writing that post, I admitted to myself that I was struggling with my mental health. I admitted that my mental health was not something I could ignore. The next morning, I went straight to the doctor surgery, and told the receptionist I needed help as I had tried to kill myself. I spoke to the doctor about all of the things that were causing me stress, anxiety, depression, and the intrusive thoughts I was having that made me want to step in front of a train or walk into traffic. I was immediately prescribed medication and was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I felt better knowing that I was going to address the issues. After that, I felt I could be brave, and start talking to the people around me about how I had been feeling.
4 years later, I’m a completely different person. And every day I’m grateful that for the person that didn’t let me step in front of that train. Since then, mental health issues have been more widely discussed in the media and the Lions Barber Collective has been founded.
If, back then, I’d had a regular barber to talk to about what was going on in my life, I think the outcome might have been different. I may not have taken those steps so close to the edge of the platform in the first place.
Talk to anyone who can lend you a sympathetic ear. Talk to your barber. Talk to your friends. If it’s hard to talk at first, then write your situation down. Externalising the feelings in some way will help you look at them objectively as a problem you can solve. As men, we are subconsciously taught from a very young age that we need to be strong and we cannot talk about our feelings or cry. Our response tends to be anger or isolation instead. Those ideas are the reason that male suicide rates are so much higher.
The Lions Barbers Collective
The Lions Barber Collective promotes the idea that you should talk to your barber. The main aim is the prevention of suicide and raising awareness about suicide rates in young men, as well as smashing the taboo of mental health and suicide. They deliver BarberTalk training to barbers to help them discuss the subjects with their customers, and how barbers an help people suffering with mental health issues. Being willing to talk about mental health makes a huge difference.