Historic City of London event this week helped launch male suicide-prevention drive in the capital

The Lions Barber Collective charity and the City of London Corporation teamed up to host an event on Monday October 7 to celebrate the emerging role of barbers in mental health and suicide prevention.

The Barber-Surgeons’ Hall event saw national leaders from the City of London, business, health, care, politics, charities and the military appreciating and supporting the work of the Lions Barber Collective.

The event was organised ahead of World Mental Health Day (which this year takes place on Thursday October 10), saw hair cut at the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall in Monkwell Square for the first time in centuries. The theme of World Mental Health Day 2019 is suicide prevention and the organisers are this year running a campaign called ’40 Seconds’ due to the fact that someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds.

The Lions Barber Collective works hard to educate barbers in how to spot the symptoms of mental health and depression, whilst encouraging men to talk to their barbers (and each other) about their issues.

Set up by inspirational British barber Tom Chapman after losing a friend to suicide in 2015, the Lions Barber Collective is turning barbershops into safe spaces for men using the opportunity of a regular haircut to start conversations about mental health. The group is having an enormous impact with men whom traditional mental health services can struggle to reach.

Mr Chapman organises a professionally run training programme, which is funded by the City of London Corporation, called BarberTalk, which is teaching barbers to ‘recognise, ask, listen and help’ clients, giving them the confidence and knowledge to be able to help their clients get the help they need from services such as the Samaritans charity.

His inspiring work, which started in Torbay, Devon, has now grown internationally and has attracted the support of the Duke of Cambridge via the ‘Heads Together Legacy’ and received the Prime Minister’s Point of Light Award in 2017. Last month, Mr Chapman secured the coveted 2019 Most Wanted Award for Innovation from Creative Head magazine.

Mr Chapman explained the importance of the event:

“With the kind permission of the Worshipful Company of Barbers, we have been given the amazing opportunity to hold this historic event at the Barber-Surgeons’ Hall. We will bring together members of parliament, the City of London, the NHS and the hair industry to promote mental wellbeing and the important role that the hair profession plays in saving lives.

“We are on the front line and to top it all off we will be cutting hair on the 700 + year old site for the first time in centuries, bringing the journey of barber surgeons back to the days when men would go to the barber for their medical care as well as a shave and haircut.”

Marianne Fredricks, chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Health and Wellbeing board, said:

“Tragically, suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the country. This initiative is a fantastic approach, bringing the conversation about male suicide to the forefront and helping men open up about their mental health in a safe space.”

The event on October 7 opened at 10am with a brief orientation, leading into the work from Sarah Wollaston MP (Chair of the Parliamentary Health and Social Care Select Committee), and was followed by a welcome on behalf of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and from the Master of the Worshipful Company of Barbers.

Mr Chapman also spoke about the work of his charity, before leading to a celebratory ‘first cut’ in the hall in centuries, under Holbein’s painting of Henry V111 with his Barber-Surgeons and Apothecaries.

The afternoon saw barbers from the City of London receive training in BarberTalk by the Lions Barbers Collective, and also featured top international hair designers offering celebrity haircuts for leaders interested in promoting and supporting their work.

The day concluded with a drinks reception and gave participants time to interact with the Lions to find out more about their mission to end the stigma around male suicide, which is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. In 2014, 74% of all suicide victims in the UK were male.