The Lions Barber Collective

Meet Ken Hermes, the barber helping men to open up about their mental health

The night was just like any other night. Fifteen year old, Ken Hermes and his Dad were laughing, drinking and chatting about everything, or so Ken thought. The next morning, he heard his mother’s screaming from the garage, he ran to see what it was but his mum wouldn’t let him in.

I tried to go out to see her but she wouldn’t let me. I noticed my Dad’s van was still parked up outside, so I shouted for his help. He didn’t answer.

Suicide : A word that sends chills down your spine.

But that’s what it was. I had no idea about my Dad’s depression. In fact, the concept of depression was pretty lost on me altogether. Looking back, I often wonder if he’d still be alive today if he felt that he could have expressed himself to me, or to anyone, in fact.

Not wanting his dad’s death be in vain, Ken began blogging and making video logs sharing his story in the hope that perhaps talking about it would help others. He began visiting schools and gave assemblies about mental health and 13 years on from his dad's death Ken is now a trained barber with a difference. Ken is a member of the Lions Barber Collective.

Set up in 2016 by British barber, Tom Chapman, The Lions Barber Collective mental health awareness and suicide prevention charity aims to turn barbershops into safe spaces for men using the opportunity of a regular haircut to start conversations about mental health. The group is having an enormous impact with men who traditional mental health services can struggle to reach.

Tom organises a professionally run training programme (that Ken attended), which is teaching barbers to ‘recognise, talk, listen and advise’ clients and works with the Samaritans charity – signposting the services they offer to clients in need.

Previous research suggests that barbers are in a very unique position to help men in their battle with depression. A survey commissioned by the Lions Barber Collective and The Bluebeards Revenge male grooming brand revealed that more than half of the men in Britain now feel more comfortable discussing sensitive mental health issues such as depression with their barbers/hairdressers than their doctors.

We asked Ken whether he feels like he is helping men through his training, whilst cutting hair?

I certainly do. I’m unsure if it is through my own awareness or the press coverage, but clients are opening up daily about their troubles and leaving with their heads held high. I’ve had numerous clients thank me following a conversation which validates the work that we try to do.

What are your go to tips for people to help friends and family to open up?

Don’t judge and don’t shy away from listening. Asking direct questions helps sometimes, but know when to talk and know when to listen. I find that showing my own vulnerability helps others open up.

What do you do to keep your own mental health in check? It is great helping others but we all need to start with ourselves.

All of us (ambassadors) speak to each other regularly to offload any concerns that we may have. It was difficult at the start and I had to take a little bit of time away to understand my own mental health even better! After some CBT I have returned a lot stronger.

The Bluebeards Revenge has launched a new hair styling gel, with 50p from each tub sold going to The Lions Barber Collective; helping the charity to raise awareness and prevent male suicides all over the world. The inside of the product cartons also carries branded messaging from the charity, signposting men to the Samaritans charity to seek additional support.