You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

How a trip to the barbers is helping suicidal men open up about their mental health

Mirror logo Mirror 11/09/2017 Alex Lloyd

Credits: Tom Chapman Hair Design © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Tom Chapman Hair Design When Paul Richardson went for a haircut, he expected the usual chat about holidays and the weather.

But desperately sad Paul who had contemplated suicide was about to have a life ­changing experience.

Instead of idle banter and a sharp cut, barber Tom Chapman gave Paul details of his new mental health charity Lions Barber Collective.

Its aim is to get men talking about their mental health and it was the ­encouragement Paul needed to seek help.

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45.

Today, to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, both men are urging blokes to talk to someone about their struggles, despite the stigma attached to taking your own life.

Paul, 31, said women are ­better than men at expressing their emotions to each other.

He said: “It’s a completely ­different dynamic. You don’t want to come across as weak.

“It becomes very tiring putting on a brave face.”

Garment decorator Paul’s fateful chat came in December 2015 as his life was falling apart.

He said: “I lost my marriage, my dog, my business. I had to start over and began to panic about losing everything again.

“I’d be cooking and if I picked up a sharp knife, I’d obsessively think about stabbing myself in the stomach. I couldn’t work out the point in being alive.”

Tom’s charity discovered 53 per cent of blokes are more likely to discuss personal problems with their barber than a doctor.

Paul can relate to this because he felt unable to open up to ­family and friends about his dark feelings.

Credits: Tom Chapman Hair Design © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Tom Chapman Hair Design

He said: “I’ve known Tom for years. When I sat in the chair, he asked how things were going and I was very negative.

“Each time I said something he put a positive twist on it, then told me about the scheme.”

After that conversation and reading about the initiative, Paul opened up to his family and they urged him to see his GP.

He was diagnosed with ­depression and referred for ­cognitive behaviour therapy.

Things could have been so ­different without the ­intervention of Tom, who sought mental health training after a good pal unexpectedly took his own life.

Tom said: “It was hard to think I hadn’t been able to notice ­anything or be there for him.

“Hairdressers end up as counsellors for their clients so I wanted to openly tell them it is okay to talk to me.

© Tom Chapman Hair Design “I’ve had clients of 15 years opening up to me and I’ve had new clients seeking me out because of it.

“All our barbers receive training, to ensure they ask the right questions and give the right answers.

“Paul had always struck me as a successful, happy- go-lucky guy so I was ­surprised by the extent of his suffering. It shows how we don’t really know what is going on unless we ask.

“The point of the Lions was to stop another person taking their life. To know we have is an ­amazing thing – but it is something we should be doing anyway, looking out for one another.”

Paul is working with Tom to get depressed men talking. There is a Facebook group and meet ups at Tom’s salon, Lions’ Den.

Paul said: “I met a guy and bought him ­breakfast because he was feeling ­rubbish.

“None of us know each other that well but it’s easy to talk ­because there is no judgment.

“I still have bad days. But it makes me feel good to know I’m supporting others. To just have someone ask: ‘How are you ­coping?’ every now and then makes all the difference.”

Find out more about Lions at ­thelionsbarbercollective.com.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

More from The Mirror

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon