Barbers Get Mental Health Training to Aid Black Communities|JFP Mobile – Jackson Free Press

3August 2020

The barber's chair may be the new therapy couch for parts of the South where mental health care is in short supply. Photo by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash

The barber’s chair might be the brand-new treatment sofa for parts of the South where mental healthcare is in brief supply. Image by Edgar Chaparro on Unsplash JACKSON, Miss. (AP )– The barber’s chair may

be the new therapy sofa for parts of the South where mental health care is in brief supply. In Mississippi, one of 6 Southern states ranked in the bottom 10 for mental health care access, around 60 Black barbers have actually been trained over the past year to engage their clients in mental health conversations that might not otherwise occur.

“As a barber, people listen to our guidance a lot, and the training simply brought that out more,” stated Antonio Wiggins, who cuts hair and teaches at the Trendsetters Barber College in Jackson, Miss. “I didn’t even realize I was assisting people psychologically and how crucial that was.”

Conversation becomes part of the appeal in hair salons like Innovators.

Men will wait 6 to 7 hours on a Saturday for a cut and spend the day switching sports viewpoints, vetting conspiracy theories or discussing grand hypotheticals– “What’s the worst thing you believe has ever taken place?”

“We like to say we resemble the Black country club,” Wiggins stated. “You come to the hair salon and people automatically feel comfy. It’s the hair salon talk.”

In June, Wiggins was among 20 who participated in the most recent round of training by The Confess Project, an Arkansas-based group that has taught Black barbers throughout the South how to fold emotional assistance into that “shop talk” and de-stigmatize those discussions in predominantly male waiting areas.

Wiggins stated the training showed him that what goes unsaid can be simply as crucial to listen for.

“I’ve had customers (before) who dedicated suicide, customers who had anxiety,” Wiggins said. “This has actually made me focus more to various words a customer may use. Or if a customer wants to let others get before them, basically they don’t actually want a hairstyle and perhaps wish to talk more. It makes me pay more attention, because it might be something that might save that person’s life.”


Research studies have actually shown Black people across the country have a greater risk of post distressing stress condition (PTSD) than other ethnic groups. That danger is heightened in Southern states like Mississippi where high rates of hardship, violence and abuse can deepen injury.

Still, in Mississippi and other parts of the South, barriers to mental health access remain high.

The state ranks No. 48 nationally for mental healthcare gain access to, according to a report launched this year by Mental Health America (MHA), which analyzed the number of people received treatment and how many grownups could not get treatment due to cost, among other elements.

The lack of access got national attention in 2017 when the federal government took oversight of the state’s psychological health care system. U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled, in part, that the state unnecessarily institutionalized individuals in state healthcare facilities and “has significant spaces in its neighborhood care.”

Mississippi likewise had the 2nd least psychiatrists per capita in 2018, according to 2018 report by University of Michigan Behavioral Health Workforce Research Center.

“Mississippi has basically turned its back on mental health issues,” stated barber Darius Campbell, who likewise participated in the Confess Project. “There’s no financing for psychological health issues. The only place we truly need to handle psychological health is the state healthcare facility and for the many part, everybody don’t belong there. Some people simply need that little sit-down to launch what’s on their mind and what’s on their heart.”

In general, the South represent 6 of the bottom 10 states for mental health care gain access to nationwide, according to the MHA report: Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The Confess Project has worked with barbers in each of those states other than Alabama. And Confess Job founder Lorenzo Lewis stated he has actually seen motivating outcomes.

“On the micro level we’re working to build more powerful, much healthier relationships,” Lewis said. “On the macro level, we see that hardship may be decreased. Men can be found in the shops that have better work outcomes and better psychological health.”

Tiffany Haynes, an associate professor at University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, studied the barriers to mental healthcare for Black individuals who reside in backwoods. In that 2017 research study, she discovered that high costs and lack of insurance coverage were primary aspects along with a scarcity of healthcare providers in the region.

Haynes likewise discovered that within the Black neighborhood, a clear need for mental healthcare frequently encountered an absence of access to mental health literacy and deeply-rooted stigmas against looking for therapy.

“Participants in our study talked a lot about preconception. In smaller neighborhoods, it’s truly difficult to gain access to these services without somebody else knowing what you’re doing,” Haynes stated.

That stigma is something Lewis knows all too well.

Lewis lost his father in the 3rd grade. He still remembers someone telling him to “man up.”

“I think that experience manifests with a lot of men,” Lewis stated.

Lewis likes to utilize personal experience to get in touch with the barbers he’s training, and as someone who is both a 10-year behavioral health worker and a previously jailed juvenile identified with anxiety, Lewis likes to say he understands mental health needs both “personally and professionally.”

However it was in his auntie’s charm store in Little Rock, Ark., where he found a nurturing environment and his first mentor.

“That’s where I saw that I might be the very best I could be. And I saw lives being altered there all those years,” Lewis said.


In retrospection, hair salons seem perfect for completing mental health spaces for Black Mississippians.

The barber chair is a fantastic equalizer, where every member of the community sits with self-improvement currently in mind. And barbers are familiar, relatable faces in a space understood for non-judgement and discretion.

Black mental health workers comprise just 2% of American Psychological Association members, according to a 2017 staffing analysis.

“I found out throughout the COVID shutdown that hair salons are most people’s counseling sessions,” Campbell stated. “If you could be a fly on the wall and listen to a few of the things that’s shared, you ‘d be like, wow, they do not ever need to shut hair salons down again.”

The addition of barbers such as Campbell, who owns a shop in the 1,100-person town of Terry, Miss., might suggest a boost in mental health literacy in backwoods.

In the past year, Campbell stated he saw “a great deal of broken boys” entering into his store, which led to his involvement with The Confess Task. While numerous are not yet comfortable with opening, he said he continues to apply lessons he’s discovered. He watches for those preventing eye contact or sagging their head.

“Now when I see bigger problems, I understand the concerns to ask,” Campbell said. “Or I do not open with questions and I begin by saying, ‘Guy, you are so worth it. You don’t know just how much you assisted me today,’ and they state, ‘Wow, genuine?'”

Wiggins, a longtime barber who has actually seen kids grow from kindergarten to college from behind the barber chair, said he knows of clients with identified mental disorders. However more frequently, he sees somebody who needs a kind ear.

There was the mother who would constantly come to get her eyebrows formed. After one session, she didn’t get up from the chair and instead burst into tears and started talking about her kid’s drug habit.

“She was asking what suggestions I can give and if I can talk with him. And I did, due to the fact that I cut his hair likewise,” Wiggins stated. “Stuff like that takes place all the time.”

When a routine of his, James Bennett, entered into the shop 3 years back, Wiggins knew how he wanted his hair cut: a taper on the side and taken low all over.

And after 7 years of cutting Bennett’s hair every weekend, Wiggins likewise understood something was off.

“I knew something was incorrect due to the fact that he had his head down the entire time. We ‘d typically be laughing and joking and speaking about regular barbershop stuff,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t know he had a weapon in his pocket that night.”

As Bennett put it in a recent telephone call, a continuous divorce had him mad adequate to “do crazy things” and “want to hurt someone, anyone.”

Wiggins, picking up the recklessness in his good friend, told Bennett not to do anything that would steal time from his mom or his three kids.

A week later, Bennett went back to the shop. He explained that he had a weapon the week prior to and thanked Wiggins for being the voice he required to hear.

“I returned and told him, ‘You assisted me out. You probably wouldn’t be cutting my hair no more since I ‘d be locked up in prison,'” Bennett stated.

3 years later, Bennett still often visits the store. Sometimes he tries to find answers, but because that night in 2017, he also searches for others who require the help he was as soon as given. Assessing that night, Bennett said treatment had been an alternative for him, however he didn’t feel comfy talking to someone who had not had a comparable training.

“I’m not saying a therapist can’t help me however at that point I was looking for someone who’s been through it,” Bennett said. “For Black individuals, the hair salon is where men go to consult with other guys to get a point of view from everybody. I sit and listen and take all of it in, and it works for me. It keeps me positive.”

Often, getting a little off the top can take a weight off your shoulders.Source:

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