Over the past year, approximately 60 Black barbers in Mississippi have received training to engage their clients in discussions about mental health.
Mississippi is one of six Southern states ranked in the bottom 10 for mental health care access. Hairdresser and teacher at Trendsetters Barber College in Jackson, MS, says “As a barber, people listen to our advice a lot, and the training just brought that out more.”
Wiggins received training courtesy of The Confess Project, an Arkansas-based group that teaches Black barbers across the South how to integrate emotional support into general ‘shop talk’ and remove the taboo of emotional conversations in environments like male waiting rooms.
“I’ve had clients (before) who committed suicide, clients who had depression,” Wiggins said. “This has made me pay attention more to different words a client might use. Or if a client wants to let others get before them, basically they don’t really want a haircut and maybe want to talk more. It makes me pay more attention, because it may be something that could save that person’s life.”
Founder of The Confess Project, Lorenzo Lewis, has worked with barbers across Southern states to provide barbers with the tools to support their clients. The results so far have been encouraging: “On the micro level we’re working to build stronger, healthier relationships,” Lewis said. “On the macro level, we see that poverty may be decreased. Men come in the shops that have better employment outcomes and better mental health.”
To find out more and how you can get involved, visit www.theconfessproject.com.