Hornchurch barber shop becomes social hub where men speak about mental health
15:00 15 October 2016
Few people would expect anything more than a beard trim and a hair cut from their barber.
But at Jake’s Barber Shop, clients come in not only to get pampered, but to play table football, have a game on the Playstation and most importantly, to have a chat.
Open seven days a week, the shop, in Hillview Avenue, Hornchurch, has been in business for less than three years but already has become a social hub for men.
As barbers are becoming trendy again, a study shows more than half of men are more comfortable speaking to their barber than their GP about mental health.
The survey, which sampled 1,908 men living in Britain, showed 78pc of participants made a conscious effort to regularly visit the same barber, while only 54pc of them said they consulted the same doctor when visiting their local health centre.
Jake Lansley, who runs the shop, agrees: “If you go to your GP it makes it more serious than talking to your barber.”
Traditionally, barbers have always been places of social interactions for men so Ciaran White, of Havering Mind, visited Jake at his shop to train him to recognise the symptoms of mental health illnesses and give him advice on where to refer people needing help.
Jake finds it awkward to cut someone’s hair and not ask his clients how they are.
They come in regularly – sometimes just for a chat – and part of Jake’s job is to be able to listen to them.
He described his relationship with his clients as “pretty close”.
“A lot of people talk and tell you things they wouldn’t tell anyone else,” he said.
“When they say they are not doing well, for me it’s an invitation to find out what’s going on.
“Men don’t talk about mental health.
“We think we are invincible. But this is a non-judgmental, relaxed and friendly environment and some of us can relate to what they are saying.”
After being pampered, men feel better about themselves, which can give some people the confidence to speak more freely, explained Jake.
The salon’s Myles Lewis, who suffers from anxiety and depression, decided to leave his job in marketing and train as a barber two years ago.
He said one client had told him the salon was “like family”.
For him, the most important thing is that men feel they can just walk in and talk to them about anything.
“I would rather talk to a barber about something because at the end of the day, if you cannot talk to anyone else, the barber is there. It’s a lifestyle,” he said.
Myles believes men are “too proud” to speak about their mental wellbeing.
“We don’t cry and we don’t break down, we don’t have emotions until we just break – men won’t speak about it apart from to their barbers,” he said.
“A barber’s shop is an experience.”
Myles went on to found his own barbers’ collective called Guerilla Barbers, which has partnered with charity Centrepoint to help the homeless.