Black men are discussing mental health more than ever before. While some are still hesitant to talk, one organization is helping Black men open up at a familiar place—the barbershop.
The Confess Project partners with barber shops to help Black men and boys talk through the issues they’re dealing with. Craig Charles, a barber ambassador for the organization and the 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 clients and that adds a sense of comfort,” Charles told WBUR. “You’re able to express yourself in certain manners.”
The Confess Project has trained more than 1,400 barbers in 47 cities across the country to increase their knowledge, attitudes, and skills related to mental health. The organization has increased the 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 Black space, but it is dearly needed. According to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, in 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black Americans, ages 15 to 24. In 2018 the death rate from suicide for Black men was four times greater than for African American women.
Charles added that when his customers 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 mind letting them know, ‘Hey, it’s OK, because trauma is real,’” Charles said. “I go to a specialist for therapy, just [to] kind of calm my mind and let them understand if I can do it, you can do it as well.”
While Charles makes it clear that he’s not a therapist or mental health professional, he posts phone numbers and posters around his barbershop in case anyone needs to reach one. He’s also helping by talking and connecting with his customers.