• NAMI Washington County

Black Barbers + Mental Health Advocacy

This CNN article discusses how Black barbers have become mental health advocates for African-American men. In this article, Ray Conner traces his dreams to become a barber when he was a child in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, he experienced childhood trauma in watching his mother undergo addiction and he often went to bed hungry. When he needed to get away from his family, he would often visit his local barber shop (A Cut Above Barber Shop) and this relationship with his barber has lasted a long time throughout his life. Eventually, Conner was inspired to become both a mentor and barber for other young Black men facing adversity.

​The Confess Project Barber Coalition, a non-profit created to help Black men and boys become the best version of themselves, hosted a workshop in Conner's hometown that led him to becoming involved. Through the work of this coalition, Conner was shown not only to take better care of his mental health, but also given the tools to provide the same support system to his clients. The coalition's mission is to bridge the gaps in mental health care by providing a safe space for people to talk openly about the struggles they face. As a result, it has even created a network of support among Black barbers in training over 200 barbers to be mental health advocates in their respective communities.

Systemic racism has created a unique need for support in the Black community, yet national data indicates that African American communities are woefully under-resourced and underrepresented in behavioral health care. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected African-Americans and repeated instances of police brutality have led to an increased need for mental health services in the Black community. For African-American men, the "barbershops" are safe spaces where people talk about everything. In fact, recent studies show that barbershops can be effective in promoting wellness and health among the Black community given the intimacy of relationships that flourish there. https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/23/us/black-barbers-mental-health-wellness-trnd/index.html

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