Hairdressing students get suicide prevention training

Mental Health

As part of their college training, barbering and hairdressing students in Devon are learning how to spot the signs someone is struggling, step in, and offer support

Hairdressers and barbers hold a unique position in our communities, and tapping into this is barber Tom Chapman, who founded the internationally recognised charity The Lions Barber Collective.

After losing a friend to suicide, Tom decided he needed to do something to prevent others from going down the same path, and so he founded The Lions Barber Collective, which offers training to barbers and hairdressers in how to have conversations about mental health, recognise the signs that someone might be struggling, and also how to signpost further support.

The charity has gone from strength to strength, and now the first-ever Lions Barber Academy has launched at South Devon College in Torquay, where students will learn the skills as part of their training.

In his presentation at the launch of the scheme, Tom noted how 72% of those who complete suicide have had no contact with mental health services in the 12 months before their death but, that the chances are, they have had a haircut.

“If we can reach out to those people, of which the majority are men, then we can hopefully prevent more people taking their own lives,” he said.

“It’s a huge privilege to launch the first Lions Barber Academy at South Devon College where I was a student,” Tom continues. “People in the hair and beauty industry hold a privileged space in people’s lives. Our aim is to create a non-judgemental environment, to recognise signs of mental health suffering and signpost individuals to the support they need. Training these students is the only way to create a legacy of long-standing, real change.”

Tom Chapman with Maria Woodger, assistant principal of South Devon College, and student

Tom Chapman with Maria Woodger, assistant principal of South Devon College, and student

The award-winning training will teach students the four pillars: recognise, ask, listen, and help to help.

Responding to the news, full-time Level 2 barbering student James Webb can see how the training will support him in his future career.

“It was great seeing Tom Chapman talk about the charity in person,” he said. “I learnt a lot from it and will definitely make a big difference in the future for me, where I’ll hopefully have set up my own shop.

“As a barber or hairdresser, you see clients regularly, get their life story, and hear about their problems. Especially men in general, they get very personal and feel like they can talk to you about a lot more.”

“We are absolutely thrilled to be the first college to launch the Lions Academy,” said Matt Harbour, deputy principal and CEO at South Devon College.

“Mental health is so important to us here at South Devon College, particularly in the wake of Covid 19. We are seeing every day the impact of the last two years on our young people particularly, but this is a wider problem within our community.

“We’re excited to be able to deliver The Lions Academy training to our barbering, hair and beauty staff and students. This will equip them for the conversations they will inevitably have with their future clients and hopefully will provide the tools they need to identify signs of suicidal thoughts and ultimately to save lives.”


Learn more about The Lions Barber Collective by visiting thelionsbarbercollective.com

Need to talk? Connect with a counsellor using counselling-directory.org.uk

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