Barbershops and Mental Health: The Confess Project Finds a Valuable Connection

For years, barbershops and salons have been thought of as a hub for communication. People open up to their hairdressers. It may be that they feel it necessary to fill the time with talk or it may be because the soothing touch and pampering promote a connection.

But no matter what the cause may be, it’s clear that barbers and hairdressers have become more than someone who does your hair. They’ve taken up a secondary role as therapists.

The role barbers play in improving mental health is undeniable. As a result, the Confess Project was launched in recognition and acknowledgement of this key role, training barbers to become mental health advocates in their local communities. The organization is committed to fostering a culture of mental health for young men of color, boys and their families.

Read on to find out more about this unique nonprofit and the role barbers have in mental health.

The Confess Project History

The Confess Project was founded by Lorenzo Lewis. Lewis had been dealing with anxiety and depression throughout his 20’s and he realized he was not alone.

After doing a bit of research, he found that mental health issues were especially difficult for black men to deal with. The research substantiates that:

● Only 4% of therapists are black making it difficult for black people to find someone to relate to

● Only 1 out of 3 black people get care for their mental health needs

● Many black people see depression as a sign of personal weakness creating stigmas that make it hard for individuals in black communities to reach out

Lewis decided to make a change. He approached local barbers in Little Rock, Arkansas to discuss the possibility of starting the Confess Project.

He felt that barbers would relate well to people in their community. He also noted that during the civil rights movement, a significant portion of the grassroots level organization was conducted in barbershops.

At first, Lewis was met with resistance as mental health issues were considered taboo or complicated, but eventually, he was able to engage people with the idea of just having someone to talk to who understood where they were coming from and shared a similar feeling or experience.

About the Confess Project

The Confess Project offers a specially designed curriculum for barbers’ mental health education. After they complete the program, they become certified mental health advocates. They aren’t trained to diagnose or treat mental illness, but they are helpful in breaking down stigmas and providing people with support and acceptance.

The aim of the project is to get people to feel more confident and self-aware so they can have a positive mental journey. Advocates send a message that it’s okay not to be okay.

The Project has grown outside of its Little Rock beginnings and is gaining momentum around the country. In 2018, it toured seven southern and Midwest cities. Those that attended the workshops said they were better informed on mental health than they were before they attended.

As the organization became more well known, people in various cities began promoting its mission in their communities. For example, Craig Charles, owner of Craig’s Crown Cutz in Johnson City became an ambassador for the project. He was excited to attend a workshop in the area which was responsible for helping several local barbers become mental health advocates.

The Confess Project also partnered with Gillette in 2020. The company offered the organization a grant fund to connect with barbers across 16 more states.

Black Men and Mental Health Issues

Current research is showing us that Black men appear to be especially prone to mental health issues. Racism and police brutality has become a major problem in the past few years, and marginalization continues to be an issue in many communities. Matters are further impacted by the social distancing caused by the pandemic.

Communities of color have often borne the brunt and weight of trauma, alone.Suicide was the second leading cause of death for blacks and African Americans aged 15 to 24 in 2019. While suicide rates decreased overall during the pandemic, they have doubled in black communities as compared to previous years.

Conclusion

We all look forward to opening up to our barbers and hairdressers during salon visits. Lorenzo Lewis found the potential in this type of therapy and launched the Confess Project to take it to the next level. Although the organization still has a long way to go, it is wonderful that they are providing a therapeutic outlet to people who so desperately need it.

Seeking a mental health advocate or becoming one yourself is an important first step in helping to address the stigma or shame once associated with mental health issues.

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Dr. Alddo Molinar is an anesthesiologist, based in Martins Ferry, OH, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

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Alddo Molinar

Alddo Molinar

Dr. Alddo Molinar is an anesthesiologist, based in Martins Ferry, OH, who received his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

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