TOM CHAPMAN URGES HAIRDRESSERS TO REACH OUT AND TALK
Fuse speaks to barber and men's mental health campaigner, Tom Chapman, on founding his charity and how to look after wellbeing.
Let’s say it right now: Tom Chapman is nothing short of inspirational.
Like many of our own Creative Team, Tom started his career with Toni&Guy, where he developed a passion for the discipline of structure, technical disciplines, sectioning patterns, and scissor over comb that led him towards barbering. As it happens, unbelievably, and he admits with much trial and error, Tom ended up teaching himself barbering and in 2011 opened Tom Chapman Hair Design in Torquay, Devon, UK.
In 2015 this multi-published session stylist and platform artist founded The Lions Barber Collective, together with a group of international barbers, with the aim of raising awareness for suicide prevention. Their charity has been lauded within the hairdressing community and beyond, for their mental wellbeing and suicide prevention campaigns. Believing the barbershop is the perfect safe place for men to talk, through BarberTalk, Tom hopes to train hair professionals to: Recognise, Ask, Listen and Help those sitting in their chairs.
This week TIGI Fuse was privileged to talk to Tom. During this very difficult period, we are all coming to terms with our mental health and wellbeing. Never has it been more important to reach out and ask for help if we are suffering.
FUSE: Can you tell us how you formed your charity?
TOM: The Lions Barber Collective is an international group of barbers that came together to raise awareness of men’s suicide. In 2015 a comment on a Facebook page led to the barbers group participating in a fund-raising charity event and the creation of a Look Book which led to the decision to link with a charity.
FUSE: Why did you decide to focus on Men’s Mental Health?
TOM: We threw lots of ideas around, but I was keen to link with a charity that wasn’t one of the obvious choices. Someone suggested we work with a suicide charity and this immediately resonated with me as I had lost a really close friend not long before. Do you know more men under 45 die from suicide than any other cause? The more I found out, the more I was keen to support men’s health and in 2017 we were given charity status.
FUSE: What’s the next step for the Lions Barber Collective?
TOM: It’s really important for me to grow the sustainability of the charity. We need to get more hairdressers and barbers involved with our #BARBERTALK Mission. We have worked with psychiatrists and mental health professionals to develop the BarberTalk Live and Lite training programmes.
This is an online video training programme with 4 films that help people recognise the signs of mental health issues in a person. The aim is to present 4 key pillars to RECOGNISE, ASK, LISTEN and HELP.
All BarberTalk qualified hairdressers and barbers are shown on Google Maps to show where there are safe places.
My aim over the coming 3 weeks is to sign up another 500 new hairdressers and barbers. With 500 additional professional hairdressers and barbers we could potentially reach another 75,000 people each week! To support this we are launching an a Barber Talk APP with an online chat-room and our aim to reach out to the entire industry.
If you’d like to expand your learning and knowledge in this area, visit Tom’s website.
FUSE: Can you share some of the key pointers you’ve learnt over the last few years?
TOM: 1 in 4 people has to deal with mental health issues, but everyone will experience issues at some point in their lives and of course the current situation is putting all of us under strain. We all understand physical health but mental health is more complicated and less clear. When you are low it’s important to allow your body to ‘grieve’. Listen to yourself and others. This can be incredibly powerful.
FUSE: Thinking of the situation we all find ourselves in, can you advise how we can recognise the signs if one of our friends or family members (or even ourselves) are struggling mentally?
TOM: Recognition is really important and quite difficult. All too often those closest to someone who takes their life will say: “I never recognised any issues.” However, hairdressers and barbers only see their clients every couple of months and through conversation and visually, can recognise changes. This can include sleeping badly or sleeping more than normal, changing eating patterns, over-exercising or not exercising at all, or being erratically happy. Body language tells a lot about a person too.
FUSE: What would you suggest we should do to support anyone who is finding life difficult?
TOM: If you realise someone is struggling badly, ask them questions such as:
– “Are you OK, Tom?” (Always say their name)
– “How are you feeling today, Tom?”
Look out for anyone responding: “I can’t go on!” And if they do, ask if they have contemplated suicide.
The most important thing to do if you yourself feel you are struggling, is to tell someone or reach out to a charity, such as Hub of Hope in the UK.
FUSE: We are living in a new situation for all of us. Have you got any advice to help us maintain mental balance over the coming weeks?
TOM: Think about these 5 steps:
- Connect with others. With the technology we have today this is so easy.
- Physical Activity. I usually go to the gym everyday and lift weights. I can’t do this at home, so I have had to find other ways to exercise, but even a walk is positive.
- Learn. With the time we have on our hands it’s the perfect opportunity to learn – improving our craft or a completely different subject. Studying to become a part of Barber Talk is the ideal subject for you all!
- Give & Be Kind. There are probably lots of people with whom you rarely connect – family members, lost friends… Now is the time to re-connect. Older family members in particular with be really grateful.
- Mindfulness. This doesn’t have to be meditation, it’s what puts you in the moment. On my part I’ve just bought a Nintendo for my son, and playing Mario Kart has been the best way for me to relax and forget about what’s happening.
In 2018 Tom was invited to deliver a TED Talk, at TEDx Exeter (and was the 4th most viewed TEDx community in the world.) He has also been featured on BBC TV and Radio, FOX News and has had multiple appearances in national and international press.
Tom has received a Points of Light award for his outstanding volunteer work from the former UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
His first book, The Barber Boom, was published in 2018, and his second book, BarberTalk – Taking Pride in Men’s Mental Health, released by mental health charity Trigger, was launched in March 2019.
Find out more about the great work from Tom and the others at the Lion Barbers Collective. Visit www.thelionsbarbercollective.com.