Breaking Down Barriers with Tom ChapmanTom Chapman wanted to share a story very close to his heart. With over 6,000 suicides registered within the UK in the past year, the highest suicide rate was for men aged 40-44. In the Republic of Ireland, the highest rate affects men aged 25-34. The Lions Collective, a Charity started by Tom, aims to raise awareness of the growing issue; here he explains why.
Three years ago, I lost an old friend to suicide. So many people attended the funeral that they couldn't get everyone through the crematorium doors - some friends had to wait outside to pay their respects. This gesture of love made me realise that, despite all of the people in attendance, my friend must have still felt completely alone, unable to talk to anyone about his problems.
This harrowing experience affects thousands of UK families a year and is ultimately what led me to form the Lions Barber Collective: a charity that raises awareness for and helps men around the world suffering with mental illness that may otherwise suffer in complete silence.
With the help of a dedicated team of incredible barbers and the support of passionate brands such as The Bluebeards Revenge, we want to make barbershops the number one hangout spot for men in the UK; a place where they can share their problems with like-minded people in a non-clinical and non-judgemental environment. As a result, the Lions Barber Collective has saved 11 men (that we know of) from making a decision that cannot be undone.
Our work is crucial, especially as the mental health epidemic is not showing any signs of slowing down. Suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 and, in 2014, 76 percent of all suicide victims in the UK were male.
For World Suicide Prevention Day, we commissioned a survey with men's grooming brand The Bluebeards Revenge, and discovered that a staggering 58 percent of UK men still don't feel like they can open up about their mental health issues. This important research also proved that men are much more stressed today than they were 10 years ago: a staggering 62 percent of those aged 35-or-over said they felt greater pressure in 2017 than they did back in 2007.
As a barber, I am able to have a uniquely close relationship with my clients: they trust me to make them look and feel amazing and I touch intimate areas such as their heads, ears – even their faces. Add to that the fact that I am often outside of their social circles, and a sense of trust and confidentiality is quickly established.
This trust has seen many of my clients open up to me to share their stresses and worries. Often mentioned are problems with work, money, health and more recently an over-exposure to social media. In fact, when surveyed, a worrying 35 percent blamed social media for their stresses today.The only way for us to improve the current situation is to provide men with safe havens where they feel comfortable enough to speak openly. Previously, this was most likely provided by their local pubs. But today, with the barbering industry booming, 69 percent of men say their relationship with their barber is much better than their relationship with their landlord - or lady. Our survey also revealed that 92 percent of men visit their barber at least once a month, with 10 percent admitting to making weekly trips to not only smarten up their styles but to socialise. In comparison, just 70 percent of men visit their local watering hole at least once a month.
The Lions Barber Collective is encouraging all barbers to educate themselves in how to recognise the signs of mental illness and depression, in customers that are willing to talk about it. Therefore, we've launched Barber Talk, a movement that is leading the way to provide barbers with a bespoke training programme that will enable them to guide customers to the appropriate professional help. Our work is a valuable stepping stone in helping men to break down the ancient walls that suppress mental health.
For more information on The Lions Barber Collective and Barber Talk, visit www.thelionsbarbercollective.com
If you, or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, or depression, visit Samaritans.org
First published in the Capital Winter Magazine 2017