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Using the barbershop to change the narrative of mental health

The Confess Project is a coalition of Black barbers trained to be mental health advocates for men who are less likely to see a therapist.
Published: Feb. 21, 2022 at 3:46 PM CST
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(CBS News) - 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But one organization is helping to remove that stigma.

The Confess Project is using the barbershop to change the narrative of mental health for young men of color and their families. “In the barbershop, people feel safe and they feel like they can open up,” says Donald “DC The Barber” Conley, owner of Barberizm in Compton, California.

The Confess Project is a coalition of Black barbers trained to be mental health advocates for men who are less likely to see a therapist. “As a barber, we’re trained to cut hair, but, however, we’re trained to read people as well,” Conley says.

The benefits are based in science. Harvard researchers found Black barbers are gatekeepers of the community and could help bridge the gap with mental health care. “We believe in a culture of mental health for men and boys of color, and we believe in barbers. We just believe in the trust that they inherently have in the community,” says The Confess Project’s LA Program Manager Travis Meade.

The Confess Project now has more than 1,000 barbers in 40 cities. “We train them on active listening, positive communication, validation and stigma reduction,” says Meade.

Clients like Aaron Michael Peace say sitting in Conley’s chair doesn’t just help him look good but feel good too. “There has been absolute times where throughout the week I go through the week like, dang, I’m super stressed. But I know on Friday or Saturday I have a haircut coming, and when the haircut comes, I can sit in this chair. I can talk to my barber,” says Peace.

“The number of people that I’m able to serve and help means exponentially more than the money that I could ever make,” says Conley. He also says he’s proud to provide a safe space for Black men, so they can feel seen and heard.

To learn more about The Confess Project’s locations and mental health resources, you can go to their website: theconfessproject.com.

Copyright 2022 CBS Newspath. All rights reserved.

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