Founder of The Lions Barber Collective & BarberTalk Tom Chapman made a special visit to meet the qualified students of HAIR AT THE ACADEMY (HATA), at their unique hairdressing and barbering salon for vulnerable young people based in Exeter. His mission was to help guide them to gain knowledge and experience on how to look out for those suffering from mental health issues, and how best to support them.
Tom Chapman opened his new salon ‘Hair Design’ based in Torquay in 2011 and began educating two years later. IN 2015 He founded The Lions Barber Collective and BarberTalk (TLBC) which today is an international collection of top barbers who have come together to help raise awareness for the prevention of suicide.
He said: “When you are a barber or hairdresser clients often open up to you with regards to their problems. I think it may be because they are feeling relaxed in the chair whilst having grooming or their hair done, and it’s sometimes easier to talk to a stranger rather than a friend or family member. Our ethos is based on the four pillars of BarberTalk which are to ‘Recognise’, ‘Ask’, ‘Listen’ and ‘Help’.”
He adds: “The programme was delivered as a ‘Train the Trainer’ exercise and the idea for holding this session at HATA was not to turn the students into counsellors or experts in mental health, but by using the four pillars of BarberTalk they can become more aware of how their client, or even their peers, are feeling and if appropriate, bridge the gap whilst providing them with a safe and non-judgemental space to give them the opportunity to open up, or offload their concerns.”
Qualified students and staff with Tom Chapman (Standing centre back row) in the HATA Salon
Mary Pugsley MBE – Founder of HATA comments: “What a fantastic way to launch our mental health collaboration with Tom Chapman and TLBC charity ‘educating the educators’ in mental health awareness and celebrating new horizons for next year’s programme. We’re so grateful to Tom for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this for us. There was lots of cake, tears, talk, and listening, but mostly listening!”
She explains: “We’ve been working with The Lions Barber Collective and BarberTalk for some time and developed a close-working relationship. The collective includes companies; hairdressers, and barbers predominately coming together under the instruction of Tom Chapman, so when he offered to personally visit our salon and give a talk to our students and staff we didn’t hesitate – It really helped everyone to understand ‘BarbersTalk’ and how to identify, and rationalise if somebody needs help and together obviously, we are better and stronger than it being stand-alone.”
Rebecca Masters – In-house counsellor at HATA said: “Tom has developed this fantastic delivery programme to instruct and educate people to see the signs of mental health issues in others and how to react by asking the right questions in order to subtly pick up on their emotions and that this person needs help. This includes how to report it to the proper authorities or to suggest, or offer, to report to the relevant authorities on their behalf. Mental Health has been exasperated by COVID and the forecast for the economy for the autumn is looking depressing. This will have a massive impact on our students living with parents or guardians and unable to contribute to the bills at home, which causes difficulties for the household as a whole. If they are suffering hardship then their siblings will be too, and we often have vulnerable young people coming in to study at the academy with no money for food or clothes, which immediately puts them at a disadvantage. This has become a common situation on a day-to-day basis in the salon, and as the in-house counsellor I work closely with the students on a 1:1 basis and can fully endorse this statement.”
Qualified student Courtney with HATA founder Mary
Mary Pugsley MBE concludes: “We train vulnerable young adults to achieve their full potential and work towards paid employment or further education, with many staying on once fully qualified in order to teach and give back to our students as they have an empathy and understanding of their tremulous and challenging journey. A prime example of this is one of our amazing students, Courtney who had been in the care system since she was just three years old. She started with HATA at the tender age of 14 following a recommendation by Virtual Schools and was moved from Plymouth to Exeter for her own safety. No finance was allocated but we didn’t hesitate to take her on as a student. Before coming to us Courtney was constantly being knocked back, and rarely turned up for school. Since taking her under our wing I’m proud to say Courtney’s attendance has been 100%. She’s been amazing, and quick to dedicate herself to learning and as a result, it’s been our gain. I’m proud to say that Courtney gained her Diploma Level 2 qualification and is going to stay on as a volunteer for the other students as well as do a refresher barbering course with us and then go on to teaching. Courtney is very popular with our students so will be a real asset and she says that joining the academy has been the best thing that has ever happened and literally turned her life around.