Mental health support in College barber sessions

Joseph Bulmer

The first ever Lions Barber Academy has been launched at South Devon College.

The partnership between the College and The Lions Barber Collective aims to incorporate suicide prevention training into barbering qualifications.

The charity was founded by the Torquay-based and internationally recognised barber, Tom Chapman. After losing a friend to suicide, Tom, a former South Devon College student, set out to do something to help prevent others from taking their own lives.

"It's a huge privilege to launch the first Lions Barber Academy at South Devon College where I was a student,” said Tom.

“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.”

In his presentation at the launch, attended by students, college staff and local employers, Tom explained that 72% of those who take their own lives have had no contact with mental health services in the 12 months before their death, but have probably 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.

The partnership will result in this suicide prevention training being incorporated into all of South Devon College barbering and hair and beauty courses. The multi -award winning training teaches the four pillars of RECOGNISE, ASK, LISTEN and HELP.

Full time Level 2 Barbering student, James Webb agrees the Academy will help him in his future career.

He said: “It was great seeing Tom Chapman talk about the charity in person. I learnt a lot from it and will definitely make a big difference in the future for me, when 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.”