Local barbershops are being recruited to play a key role in improving the health and wellbeing of the black and minority ethnic communities in the north of the borough as part of an innovative new project.

Six barber shops have so far signed up to The Mind My Hair Hear My Mind project which was launched  this month at the Brigstock Road Lazaris hairdressers in, Thornton Heath.

The initiative aims to help barbers develop an increased knowledge of the health conditions that affect men, increase their confidence in talking to customers about their health issues and improve their knowledge and awareness of support services. 

The barbers will also be trained to signpost their customers, both young and old to relevant health care services.

Supported by the youth counselling charity, Off The Record, and the Croydon BME Forum, the project has been developed to counter the high rates of African Caribbean and Asian boys and men, in particular, who are being diagnosed with: a serious mental health conditions, diabetes, hypertension or prostate cancer as a result of having failed to receive the necessary early intervention or the knowledge to make better lifestyle choices.

The project will also receive support from Dr Olawale Obadare of the Parchmore Medical Practice as part of the borough wide Social Prescribing initiative, with all the participating hair professionals being trained in the use of a discreet information sheet that is as small as a wallet sized card, listing a combination of six local and national services. 

According to Lee Townsend, Community Development Worker at both Off The Record and the BME Forum, research has shown that the barber shop is a place where BME men feel safe to have discussions which can often form an arena to discuss those hard-hitting and relevant health related topics that they habitually avoid.

Lee  said: “It’s through the recognition of the barbershop being a safe space for men to talk which, serves to reduce isolation and improve wellbeing in general that we believe it makes perfect sense to involve hair professionals in the process of health promotion”.

The project is a key objective for the Croydon BME Forum in its bid to develop a support network for local hair professionals, equipping them with opportunities to develop in their profession while raising the profile of the positive contribution that they make to the local community.

Lee added: “The next step will be to offer free certified training in first aid, mental health first aid and how to use a defibrillator”.

If you are a local barber or hairdresser that is interested in joining this new network email lee@bmeforum.org.