Read time: 5 minutes
Barbershops and the Power of Conversations
For many, the barber’s chair is more than just a place to get a fresh cut; it’s a sanctuary where people can open up and connect on a personal level. This unique bond between barbers and clients offers an invaluable opportunity to engage in conversations about mental health – a subject that often goes unaddressed in other settings.
Through genuine discussions, barbers can play a crucial role in identifying signs of mental distress and providing essential support to their clients. Whether it’s a simple check-in, an empathetic ear, or sharing resources, these conversations can make all the difference in someone’s mental well-being journey.
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1. Supporting your mates through life’s ups and downs
- Spot the signs:
• Increased alcohol and/or drug use, anger, aggression, irritability, crying
• Disrupted sleep, aches, and pains, declining physical health
• Risk-taking and impulsivity
• Challenging life events (separation and divorce, parenting difficulties, work-related pressures, job insecurity, physical illness, social isolation, and loneliness)
- Warning signs can appear in all shapes and sizes. Trust your gut!
Look out for ANY CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR or someone ACTING OUT OF CHARACTER
2. A little bit of prep and kickstarting the conversation:
- As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents piss poor performance.
- What are the environments/locations that may be less confrontational to kickstart a conversation? Over a coffee? Over a beer? While exercising?
- Remind yourself to relax – role model calm and composed.
- Plan for the conversation before acting. Have a loose script in mind. What are the observable behaviour changes you might comment on? “Hey mate, you seem a bit off at the moment, how are you going? Come on mate, how are you really going?”
- Keep it simple and direct. Take the pressure off yourself to have all the answers. You can stumble and fumble your way through this stuff, there’s no perfect thing to say to someone who mightn’t be travelling so well.
- Remind yourself to LISTEN first. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.
- Limit throwing out advice or solutions too soon, even if a solution seems obvious. Work with them to come up with solutions together. “How can I help you to work through this?”
3. Let them know about support options:
- Self-support – encourage good self-care practices. “What have you done in the past to feel better about yourself? Alright, let’s start doing some of this stuff again.”
- Don’t underestimate the power of social support. “How can I best support you right now?” Even if they don’t seem receptive to your support, simply being there for them can be extremely valuable. Each time you offer your support as a mate, it can be that metaphorical nudge they might need towards getting help.
- Explore referral options together and explicitly ask what you can do to best support them. “I’m aware of some good support options, how can I best help you to connect with one? Let’s do this together.”
- Friends and family – social support
- Lifeline – 13 11 14 – free crisis support 24/7
- Trusted GP for a chat – ask about a Mental Health Care/ Treatment Plan and referral to a psychologist
- Psychologists who specialise in men’s mental health. E.g., Mantle Health –
Mantle | Men’s Clinical Psychology | Manage what matters
- When accessing support, it is important to be persistent and patient to find the right fit. Like shopping for a new pair of shoes, sometimes you need to try a few different pairs on before you find that shoe that feels good on your feet.
4. Check-in, again and again.
- Follow up your conversation to show that you genuinely care (remember the power of social support) and to determine whether they are feeling any better and on the right track. If they aren’t, re-explore some of the support options outlined in Step 3.
- There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to improved mental health and well-being, so trying a few different things is important.
5. When looking to support someone else, it’s important to make sure you’re looking after YOU. ‘It’s hard to pour from an empty cup’.
- Are you feeling capable of providing support?
- Do you have time to listen?
- Have you got your own self-care and supports in place?