Lorenzo Lewis Has Started a Mental Health Movement Via Barbershops

Photograph courtesy of Lorenzo Lewis. Design by Danielle Campbell.

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Lorenzo P. Lewis isn’t a barber, but his mental health organization, The Confess Project, comes to life in black barbershops amid discolorations and beard cuts. The initiative, which was designed to get barbers talking to their male clients about mental health issues and recommending culturally sensitive resources, grew out of Lewis’ life experiences. When Lewis, who is based in Little Rock, Ark., Was growing up, he says he frequently visited his aunt’s barbershop and witnessed the transformation of self-care into self-love via close client relationships. and hairdresser. “I saw women who were going through tough times come to the salon, and months later their lives were transformed,” he says. “They came, got autonomy and left happy.” He is also well aware of the sanctity of barbershops and barbershops in black communities as one of the few places to truly feel seen in a society riddled with systemic barriers. “I felt supported, heard, celebrated – and not just tolerated,” he says.

Having experienced all this joy, then realizing that suicide is the fourth biggest killer of black men aged 20 to 44 and the third leading cause among black boys under 20 in the United States – as well as personally suffering depression – Lewis, who has over 10 years of experience in the mental health field, saw the need to work from the barber shop. “Because of this excruciating problem, I realized we needed more forces – more people to be at the forefront of the conversation,” he says, adding that recruiting black barbers as advocates Mental Health Department also addresses the lack of color therapists as they become supportive. numbers that can relate correctly to a client’s history.

Here, Lorenzo shares more about The Confess Project:

Why black beauty salons and barbershops are such sanctuaries:

“I think that when it comes to the black community, many of us are just tolerated. Racist systems and oppression have done this and, therefore, [with these shops], we build a space to be heard, to stage, to celebrate, to appreciate and also to experience joy. It is also a space where you can meet people who look like you and understand you. “

Why hairdressing professionals are ideal mental health advocates for The Confess Project:

“The level of privacy that barbers and salon stylists have with clients during a working day is extremely rare. You don’t tend to see this level of closeness other than with your family or loved ones. Rather than neglecting that level of intimacy, you have to pay attention to it, because I think that’s where a lot of power and impact can begin: getting people to really talk about their life experiences.

Photograph courtesy of Lorenzo Lewis

On how the training of the Confess project works:

“The training is training at four levels: active listening, validation, communication and stigma reduction. Our barbers are trained to be good listeners, to communicate, to know how to validate the response and emotions of their clients, to be empathetic and also how to reduce stigma through sensitivity to language and help clients. [with resources] so that their well-being is a priority. In a barbershop, it just looks like a barber is cutting the hair, giving a service, but the barber can try to create an open and rewarding dialogue for that client, one that won’t feel offended and prompted to tell his story. history. All of this increases potential access to mental health services and a better life trajectory. We train barbers to stay away from negative language like “Man up” and “You’re weak”. We have over 150 barbers in 14 states. “

To put black men and boys at the forefront of The Confess Project:

“We realized that the experiences of masculinity in black men and boys are very complicated due to toxic masculinity, the environment, violence, societal pressures and identity. They grow up in a complicated world where the world doesn’t like them. They see themselves killed, tortured and unloved and respected. So I think there are several levels of issues as to why we need to be very clear about supporting this subgroup. That’s why we do what we do. “

About professional therapists The Confess project works with:

“We make sure that the therapists that the barbers will refer clients to are culturally competent and sensitive to the Black experience – it goes hand in hand. We interview them before they become referral therapists in our network.

On the impact of the Confess project on the barbers themselves:

“Barbers with mental health issues have been able to recognize their own trauma and take medication. It has been an awakening journey for them and during the pandemic I see many more barbers waking up. They sought to feel supported and helped. We have made Zoom in on Personal Care calls throughout the pandemic and a lot of barbers are showing up on those calls. They just want to talk.

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