Both the COVID-19 pandemic and conversations about race happening now are shining a light on mental health.
One in five adults experience mental illness each year. Only one in three Black adults who need mental health care are getting it.
The reasons range from socioeconomic disparities, like access to health insurance, to the stigma in the Black community around getting this care.
Another issue, the latest numbers from the American Psychological Association show 4% of psychologists in the U.S. are Black.
“You know, I think a lot of these guys, they've been going to the same barber since they were 5 years old or maybe only went to a couple of barbers in their whole life and so it's their relationship,” said Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project, which trains barbers to become mental health advocates.
That training includes learning active listening, positive communication, validation and stigma reduction.
Lewis says the barbershop is a good place for this because it's really the only place in the Black community, besides the church, where everyone from all socioeconomic backgrounds come. And they visit more frequently than they would their own doctor.
He says he recognized the need for mental health help among black men, but saw it wasn't accessible to them.
He is hearing conversations in barbershops change especially now with the issues the Black community is facing.
“I think, if nothing else, it is more of a preparation conversation around life success and what in which we know when individuals are successful in life, career, health and their relationships, that they will have a quality mental health,” said Lewis.
The mental health training for barbers is being offered in some cities in person, or you can take the virtual course. You can sign up at TheConfessProject.com.The Confess Project trains barbers to become mental health advocates