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Program aimed to train barbers to become mental health advocates coming to Northwest Arkansas

"The Confess Program" is looking to come to Northwest Arkansas with the goal to train barbers to become mental health advocates to get people the help they need.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but mental health is something often not talked about, especially among Black men. 

The Arkansas-based program "The Confess Project" is looking to change that by coming to Northwest Arkansas and training barbers to become mental health advocates to get people the help they need.

“Recognizing how we as peer support can really support each other through skills such as listening and vulnerability,” said Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project.

Lewis founded The Confess Project after his own struggles with mental health.

“I went through my own personal challenges that lead me to a mental health hospital and incarceration.”

His program is offering free help at a place nearly everyone goes, the barbershop.

“The Black Barbershop has been a staple for most communities,” said Trendsetters Barbershop Owner, Nick Jones. Adding that at the barbershop you can talk about anything. Whether it be sports, current events, work, or relationships.

Jones says a program like The Confess Project is needed.

“The relationship that the barber has with his customer and is more of a trust factor that they can talk about certain issues that they don’t normally talk about with everybody else,” Jones said.

Currently, the program is spread across 46 cities nationwide.

“The contest project really provides that mental health awareness and support for Black men,” said President and CEO of the Black Action Collective Lance Reed. “It allows Black men to provide a space.”

The Black Action Collective is working to bring the program to Northwest Arkansas which would connect the area with the more than 1,300 barbers in the program.

“We understand the need for making sure the African-American men I have access to a quality health,” Reed said.

The program isn’t designed to make barbers therapists, but rather to give them the tools to help and recognize someone struggling with mental health.

“As Black men recognize that having a community like The Confess Project, having barbers who went through training; that we now have a supportive space that exists,” Lewis said.  “That may not have existed before.”

The training and tools provided include active listening validation, stigma reduction, and positive communication which work together to end a longtime stigma about talking about mental health by providing a safe space for it.

“This work is very much needed, and that communities are ready to be a part of this conversation,” said Lewis. “And that in return you know we’ve we have help individuals from that wanted to take their life by suicide by being in a barber chair.”

The program is looking at training for barbers as early as this summer. If you would like to sign up to be a mental health advocate or just volunteer with the program, click here.

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