Cutting back the barriers to tackling male mental health

Network Rail and The Lions Barber Collective have teamed up to help more men open up about their feelings this winter.

In support of World Mental Health Day this Sunday (10 October), The Lions Barber Collective will be set up at Reading station offering men free haircuts next Monday (11 October).

There will be a barber chair – which has been funded by GWR – in the Brunel Arcade at Reading station from 10am, providing men with the opportunity to receive a haircut and a safe place to open up about any concerns they might have, should they so wish.

In England, around one in eight men has a common mental health problem such as depression, anxiety, panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Men aged 40-49 have the highest suicide rates in the UK and three times as many men as women die by suicide.*

Network Rail works with a number of charities, train operating companies and the British Transport Police to support passengers’ mental health and reduce suicides across the rail network. Just last week (Monday 11 October) Network Rail launched its Brighter Journeys campaign with national mental health charity Chasing the Stigma.

The Lions Barber Collective aims to raise awareness of mental well-being and suicide prevention, particularly amongst men, by training barbers how to recognise, talk and listen out for symptoms of mental ill health, and signpost available support services.

The charity was founded in 2015 by Torquay-based barber Tom Chapman following the suicide of a close friend. Tom was struck by the fact he hadn’t recognised any of the signs that his friend was struggling, and this led to Tom creating The Lions Barber Collective charity to help others in his profession identify the symptoms of mental ill health and create a unique environment where men feel they can open up about their feelings.

Through its Barber Talk programme, The Lions Barber Collective has trained over 3,000 hair professionals globally and regularly holds online and in person workshops that combines mental health training with barbering demonstrations.

Vicky Clift, Network Rail customer support manager, said: “We want people to feel railway stations are a safe place and are delighted to be working with The Lions Barber Collective.

“It’s really important as a rail industry we play our part in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our passengers and colleagues alike, and this partnership with The Lions Barber Collective is the latest example of our commitment to tackling mental health and reducing suicide.

“I hope Tom has a busy day cutting passengers’ hair and those people in the barber chair take the opportunity to discuss their feelings, should they feel the need to do so.”

Tom Chapman, Founder of The Lions Barber Collective and Barber Talk, said: “As barbers we are in a unique position to help our clients, through the trust and bond we build with them. On average, hairdressers and barbers listen to people talk on average around 2,000 hours a year.

“Men are renowned for not being very good at sharing their feelings and barbers are in a very privileged position where they can build incredibly strong relationships with their clients, with whom they can share deeply personal aspects of their lives and then walk out the shop and leave it behind knowing it goes no further because of client confidentiality.”

GWR Station Manager David Pinder said: “Throughout the course of the pandemic we know that mental health has taken a big hit. Now, more than ever it is important to stop and listen, to lend an ear to those who may need to talk.

“Reading station is at the heart of the community we serve and it is fantastic to be able to offer this free service, supporting the mental health of both our customers and our colleagues alike.”

For more information about The Lion Barber Collective charity, please visit https://www.thelionsbarbercollective.com/

Photo credit: Network Rail

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