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Tom Chapman: The Barber On A Mission Against Suicide

After the death of his friend Alex, Torquay based barber Tom Chapman founded the charity ‘Therd Lions Barber Collective’. Its mission is to create non-clinical, non-judgemental safe spaces where men feel comfortable to talk about their mental health and to signpost them to support and information. With someone in the UK taking their own life every 120 minutes, 75% of them being men, the need for change is more crucial than ever.

 

Now drawing towards the charities 5th year since it was founded and anniversary on 10th September which is commonly World Suicide Prevention Day each year, the Lions Barber Collective is seeking more hair professionals to take their training to ensure that their clients are supported with their mental wellbeing and prevent possible suicides. Recognising that barbers and hair professionals are often a trusted confidant and friendly ear to their customers, the charity has developed a clinically backed training programme (BarberTalk) for hairstylists to support their clients and communities. The BarberTalk training is based on the four pillars of RECOGNISE, ASK, LISTEN and HELP which gives them the knowledge to be able to bridge the gap between the communities they serve and the resources that are available while providing a safe space to share, open up or offload.

Founder of The Lions Barber Collective, Tom Chapman, said: ‘With the male suicide rates recently going up and the impact of Covid-19 on the nation, the need for safe, non-judgemental, non-clinical spaces that are accessible where people feel comfortable to talk is essential to help look after the wellbeing of those in need. The salons and barbershops will no doubt be providing this service, with some training this extensive network/infrastructure can really save lives!’ 

I founded TLBC in Sept 2015, it started out as a one-off barbering look book project to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention because I lost an old friend to suicide the year before. I soon realised that as hair professionals we spend a lot of time with our clients, listening and caring for them. We have a unique position of trust within the communities we serve. So why not take advantage of this to help them with their mental health and prevent further suicides. Its been joked about forever that hair pros are a cheap psychiatrist or counsellors, but in reality, we listen on average for 2000 hours a year, we do this anyway, so imagine what we could achieve by training hair pros to be more successful in suicide prevention and mental health awareness”.

 

Working with national bodies such as the NHS and Public Health England as well as local authorities across the UK, by delivering the training the charity does not aim to create barbers into counsellors, however allowing the industry to embrace the trust clients have with their barber to make a difference and be able to become that first step on that journey, directing people to where they can receive the help they need.

“We have a longstanding relationship with our clients and we see them regularly, with enough time in-between visits to notice any real change in them from their last visit. Plus we have the licence to touch and intimate places that would often be limited to lovers or family. Because of this, we have a strong connection with our clients, we know them very well and therefore should be able to recognise, but more importantly, our clients will be comfortable to talk to us.” 

With the charity going from strength to strength, the journey of the last 5 years can be seen in the charities documentary ‘The £1.7 Million Haircut’ which follows Tom taking the challenge head-on, to break down the stigma around men discussing their mental health. Tom meets with influential leaders to expose the stark reality the impact suicide has on communities, healthcare services and the economy.  ‘The £1.7 Million Haircut’ documentary recounts the story of a life lost to suicide and an ambition to create safe spaces for men to talk, open up and work towards a world free from suicide. The documentary features Paul ??, the friend of Tom whose life was saved through these conversations. The impact can be seen when his parent discusses the heart-breaking story of their son who had planned suicide as he felt there was no other alternative.

Tom added, “The economic impact per suicide is something I had not really considered before, loss of earning, loss of employment, inquests into the death, it amounts to so much more than we could ever imagine. It now makes what we are doing as a charity is even more important, to save lives and make a difference to families out there who have been subject to such tragedy. I am now making it my mission to create a world free from suicide, how could we ask for anything less?”

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