Watch CBS News

Looking Good And Feeling Good: Coalition Of Black Barbers Train As Mental Health Advocates

BOSTON (CBS) -- The National Alliance on Mental Illness found nearly two-thirds of Black people believe a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. But there is one organization working to remove the stigma.

The Confess Project is using the barbershop to change the narrative for young men of color and their families.

When you think of mental health, you don't necessarily think of a barbershop.

But at Barberizm in Compton, California, owner Donald Conley is giving his clients more than just haircuts.

"In the barbershop, people feel safe and they feel like they can open up," Conley said.

He is part of the Confess Project, a coalition of Black barbers trained to be mental health advocates for men who are less likely to see a therapist.

"As a barber we're trained to cut hair, but however, we're trained to read people as well," said Conley.

The benefits are based in science: Harvard University researchers found Black barbers are gatekeepers of the community and could help bridge the gap with mental health care.

"We believe in a culture of mental health for men and boys of color, and we believe in barbers. We just believe in the trust that they inherently have in the community," said The Confess Project LA Program Manager Travis Meade.

The Confess Project now has more than 1,000 barbers in 40 cities, including The Biz Unisex Salon in Mattapan and O'Aces Unisex Salon in Roxbury.

"We train them on active listening, positive communication, validation and stigma reduction," said Meade.

Client Aaron Michael Peace said sitting in Conley's chair doesn't just help him look good, it helps him feel good too.

"There has been absolute times where throughout the week I go through the week like, dang, I'm super stressed. But I know on Friday or Saturday I have a haircut coming, and when the haircut comes, I could sit in this chair. I can talk to my barber," said Peace.

"The number of people that I'm able to serve and help means exponentially more than the money that I could ever make," said Conley.

Conley said he's proud to provide a safe space for Black men so they can feel seen and heard.

To learn more about the Confess Project's locations and mental health resources, visit their website.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.