Barbershops around America are transforming into safe havens for Black male clients to feel good inside and out.
The Confess Project, the first barbershop-centric mental health movement in the United States, is equipping barbers with the tools to become mental health advocates for Black men and boys.
Founder Lorenzo Lewis launched the project in Arkansas about six years ago. Now, the movement is spreading across the country with 860+ barbers in nearly 40 cities trained in mental health advocacy. In addition to the Barber Coalition, The Confess Project offers online courses and webinars on mental health.
Barbershops have long been considered safe spaces for Black men to open up and make conversation about anything, Lewis says. Through their work, The Confess Project hopes to change the mental health culture among Black males.
“Our barbers are pure ‘intervention specialists,’ I like to call them,” Lewis told Fox 8. “They’re advocates on the front lines, and they really support someone through conversation that can really lead to true impact, true quality of life change.”
Although the project’s trained barbers are skilled in active listening, validation and stigma reduction, they are no substitute for a licensed therapist—according to CNN. Clients who are in need of more serious care are given guidance to resources in their area.
With grim statistics surrounding Black males and mental health, The Confess Project is a much-needed lifeline.
Black American boys in the age range of 5 to 12 are more likely than all other age groups to die from suicide, according to a 2018 study. The disparities extend to the field of psychology, in which only about 4% of psychologists at the doctoral level are Black, data published by the American Psychological Association shows.
“We’re here to help Black men see that they can be vulnerable, that they can be whole, that they can be celebrated and this is an opportunity for them to see their lives thrive in many ways,” said Lewis.
The Confess Project has been recognized many times for its contributions. The project won the American Psychiatric Association’s Pioneer for Advancing Minority Mental Health award and Rainwater, Holt & Sexton’s Difference Makers Award.