Black men are discussing mental health more than ever. While some are still hesitant to speak up, one organization is helping black men open up in a familiar place: the barbershop.
The Confess Project partners with barbershops to help black men and boys talk about the issues they face. Craig Charlesbarber ambassador of the organization and owner of Crown Cutz Academy in Johnson City, Tennessee, says barbers bring a sense of comfort to their clients.
“Over time, you build relationships with your customers and that adds a sense of comfort,” Charles says WBUR. “You are able to express yourself in certain ways.”
The Confess Project has trained more than 1,400 barbers in 47 cities across the country to increase their mental health knowledge, attitudes and skills. The organization has increased cultural dialogue in unorthodox settings for Black men, boys and their families through community collaborations with therapists and healthcare networks across the country.
Mental health is still a new idea in the dark space, but it is absolutely necessary. According to department of the Minority Health Health and Social Services Office, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among black Americans, ages 15 to 24. In 2018, the suicide death rate for black men was four times higher than for African American women.
Charles added that when his clients come to talk about what they’re going through, he helps them by simply giving them the space to have conversations.
“[I] just ease their minds by letting them know, “Hey, it’s okay, because the trauma is real,” Charles said. “I’m going to a specialist for therapy, just [to] calm my mind and let them know that if I can do it, you can do it too.
Although Charles makes it clear that he is not a therapist or mental health professional, he does post phone numbers and posters in his barber shop in case anyone needs to reach one. He also helps by talking and connecting with his customers.