Confess Project uses barbershops to reduce the stigma of black mental health

What struck Glickman was that another client had committed suicide in 2021.

“I never knew,” Glickman said, keeping his head down. “I never knew.”

For generations, the barbershop has been a meeting place, social club, and respite for black men and boys, who use it not only to freshen up for the week, but to gain wisdom as well.

Now, one group wants collection points to do more. “The Confess Project” is enlisting barbershops like Privado to double as mental health centers, where black men can comfortably talk about their issues.

“When you confess, you become the best,” said Lorenzo Lewis, founder of the organization that is leading the nationwide charge. “We can overcome those things that have become barriers in our lives with therapy and support.”

While Black Americans experience similar rates of mental illness as other Americans, Black men are about half as likely as their white peers to seek counseling, according to the American Psychological Association.

About 45 percent of white men aged 18-44 who experience anxiety or depression are likely to use mental health services on a daily basis, compared with only 26 percent of black and Hispanic men with the same disorders.

“African-American men struggle with depression, anxiety and aggressive anger, but many of them have been afraid to speak up,” said Laklieshia Izzard, licensed professional counselor and board member of the National Alliance on Mental Issues of Georgia . “Our men are in desperate need of support.”

Lewis emphasized that The Confess Project is not training therapists. Rather, the organizers are looking for gatekeepers who are willing to learn to listen and look for subtle personality changes, such as withdrawal or changes in care, that could signal a mental health issue.

The project has trained more than 1,500 barbers in more than 50 cities.

Lewis founded The Confess Project in 2016 after working as a social worker for troubled teens in Little Rock, Arkansas. Most of the teenagers were black and never addressed their mental health issues.

Recalling the days of working at his aunt’s beauty salon, he came up with the idea of ​​using barbershops to reach those who might be in trouble.

“We wanted to create a community around black men that was safe and non-judgmental where they could talk about their pain,” Lewis said. “Barbers will see people who don’t know to seek help. They are at the forefront of mental health advocates.”

At a recent block party in Vine City, a big stage was set up outside the Privado, The Confess Project’s Barber of the Year.

The entire area was teeming with vendors distributing food and service organizations providing information.

Atlanta rapper Pastor Troy sat quietly on a panel with mental health professionals and law enforcement officers to talk about the state of the black mind.

“As strong as we are, we have to represent the weaknesses that we have,” said Pastor Troy, who drew strong criticism – and praise – for what some described as a homophobic rant in 2020 against fellow musician Lil Nas. Pastor Troy said he sought professional help to deal with mental health issues.

“It was important to find that place to help me with this therapy,” Pastor Troy said before going on stage. “Get it off your chest, out of your mind and release it. This has allowed me to embrace my issues.

Inside the Privado barber shop, Glickman seemed unfazed by the activity outside.

He had a lobby full of heads to cut off.

While he was honored to be Confess Project’s Barber of the Year, Glickman said he still had a lot to learn.

“If only I could learn to be a better ear. If only I could learn to be someone to talk to,” Glickman said. Some men “may not feel comfortable talking to a therapist or seeking help. But a barber, they might be comfortable with it. I just want to dig even harder .

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