Tom Chapman

OPINION: Lions Barber Collective just must be saved

Jim Parker

If you think about it, one of the most informal, easy-going ways of talking and communicating is when you are having your hair cut, sat in  the chair talking to your barber.

Torquay-based Tom could see the value and potential of that unique relationship between barbers and their clients as he set out on a mission to prevent tragedies and suicides such as that of his late friend. He wanted to to propel the stigma of mental ill health among men into the mainstream.

His aim was just to get men to talk about their problems and open up to their barber – who at the same time would receive special training on how to listen, ask the right questions and offer and find any help that was needed.

In 2015 he founded the Lions Barber Collective, a group of barbers that helps to raise awareness of mental illness and aims to prevent suicide by creating training that enables barbers to recognize, talk and listen out for symptoms of depression.

It grew quickly in South Devon, then the UK and then remarkably around the world to countries including Kenya, Australia and Hawaii. Closer to home, South Devon College has a Lion’s Academy where its hairdressing students are included in the special mental health training.

Tom suddenly found himself on the world stage giving speeches and lectures as a team of between 60 and 70 volunteers were making sure pop-up barbers were popping up here, there and everywhere to get the mental health message across across.

The Collective grew so big it became a charity in 2017 and Tom decided to give it his full attention. It is impossible to put a definitive figure on how many men the Collective has helped or how many lives have actually been saved over the past few years, but it must be many.

But is all that vital, life-saving work about to stop or at least be curtailed?  The Collective has running costs and the money that keeps it going is running out.

A global corporate sponsor who was lined up for a £150,000 sponsorship deal for at least the next two years has suddenly pulled out and grant applications have failed all at the same crucial time. The Collective has four or five months reserves but who knows after that?

Tom, speaking from a building site in London where he was about to set up a popup barbers, says: “We have had a lot of funding applications all fail at the same time. We had a corporate sponsor that was going to support us but that was withdrawn at the last minute.

“We have probably four or five months in reserves to go.”

Tom raises money from his public speaking events and donations are made for the pop-ups. But funding is needed for a more sustainable future.

Tom says: “We have had lots of things fall through at the same time. We will keep going until we can get the cash flow going.

“We have carried out about 2,000 training sessions and we have between 60 and 70 volunteers actually doing the work.

“In mental health it is about recognising the signs, asking people questions, listening and helping them find the help they need.

“72 per cent of people who take their own lives have had no contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months. They have had no contact. We can reach the unreachable.”

"I am not going to say it will happen, but if the Collective were to collapse it would be an absolute tragedy."

We have to make sure that an initiative like the Lions Barber Collective survives and thrives. If you can help contact Tom by emailing tom@lionsbarbercollective.com

But don’t leave it too long!

In a personal, moving talk he tells us about the international movement he founded building on the unique relationship between barbers and their clients to prevent suicide and save lives. Tom Chapman is a Torquay-based barber who has made it his mission to propel the stigma of mental ill health among men into the mainstream. In 2015 founded the Lions Barber Collective, an international group of barbers who have undergone training in how to recognize symptoms of mental ill health in clients and signpost them to relevant support services. The group helps to raise awareness of mental illness and aims to prevent suicide by creating training that enables barbers to recognize, talk and listen out for symptoms of depression. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

News