Barbers at Charlotte's No Grease! barber school and barber shops are trained both in the art of hair-styling as well as in Mental Health First Aid, a course designed to help spot the signs of mental illness and offer help.

News, Family Health, Men's Health | 3 months ago

More than a Haircut: Barbers Talk to Clients About Mental Health

Barbers at Charlotte's No Grease! barber school and barber shops are trained both in the art of hair-styling as well as in Mental Health First Aid, a course designed to help spot the signs of mental illness and offer help. 

Damian Johnson owns and operates No Grease! Inc., -- a brand of popular barbershops as well as a barber school in the Charlotte area. He knows firsthand how mental illness impacts his clients. Johnson says he hears stories day in and day out of men struggling – not with bills or relationships – but with mental illness, depression and thoughts of suicide.

“As men, they don’t readily share these struggles, but when they sit down in a barber chair, it’s a safe place where they feel comfortable telling it all,” Johnson says.

When Atrium Health approached Johnson about a Mental Health First Aid initiative, Johnson saw it as a great partnership opportunity to provide training to students who are preparing to become barbers and hairstylists. He wanted to better support the common themes he was hearing from clients. These men and women have a unique position in a community saturated in stigma and in need of helpful mental health resources. The eight-hour Mental Health First Aid course helps the barbers recognize the signs of mental illness and get clients the support they need.

Barbers at Charlotte's No Grease! barber school and barber shops are trained both in the art of hair-styling as well as in Mental Health First Aid, a course designed to help spot the signs of mental illness and offer help.

Sheila Wright, a Mental Health First Aid instructor at Atrium Health, says barbers and hairstylists can be the gatekeepers for people who are going through a mental health crisis.

“This course equips them with the ability to spot the signs – from depression to suicidal thoughts – and then direct people to get help,” Wright says.

Since 2014, more than 15,000 people have taken Mental Health First Aid courses through Atrium Health. The free course is available in Spanish and English to individuals and groups across the community, including employers, faith communities, public health and safety officials, veterans’ organizations, youth/adolescent groups and agencies, and Latino organizations.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Help Line is available 24/7 at 704-444-2400.

Mental Health First Aid At-A-Glance

  • 1 in 4 Americans are diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.
  • More than 15,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid by Atrium Health.
  • 1,100 Charlotte firefighters were trained in Mental Health First Aid in 2018.
  • More than 950 Mental Health First Aid classes have been taught to-date.
  • After Mental Health First Aid training, 88% of participants feel more confident in their ability to handle a mental health situation or emergency.
  • Two Spanish speaking instructors are trained and available to reach the Latino community.
  • Atrium Health has integrated behavioral health screenings into primary care practices across the system, including those in underserved and rural communities.

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