Hairdressing students undergo suicide prevention training

As part of their university education, Devon barber and hairdressing students learn to spot the signs that someone is struggling, to intervene and to offer support.

Hairstylists and barbers hold a unique place in our communities, and it was barber Tom Chapman, who founded the internationally renowned charity The Lions Barber Collective.

After losing a friend to suicide, Tom decided he had to do something to stop others from following the same path, and so he founded The Lions Barber Collective, which provides training for barbers and hairdressers on how to having conversations about mental health, recognizing the signs that someone might be struggling, and also how to report additional support.

The charity has gone from strength to strength and the first ever Lions Barber Academy has been launched at South Devon College in Torquay where students will learn the skills as part of their training.

In his presentation at the launch of the program, Tom noted that 72% of those who die by suicide had no contact with mental health services in the 12 months before their death, but there is a good chance they had their hair cut.

“If we can reach out to these people, the majority of whom are men, we can hopefully prevent more people from taking their own lives,” he said.

“It’s a huge privilege to start the first Lions Barber Academy at South Devon College where I was a student,” continues Tom. “People in the hair and beauty industry have a special place in people’s lives. Our goal is to create a judgment-free environment, recognize signs of mental distress, and direct individuals to the support they need. Training these students is the only way to create a legacy of real and lasting change. »

Tom Chapman with Maria Woodger, Vice Principal of South Devon College, and student

The award-winning training will teach students the four pillars: recognize, ask, listen and help to help.

Reacting to the news, full-time Level 2 barber student James Webb can see how the training will support him in his future career.

“It was great to see Tom Chapman speak about the charity in person,” he said. “I learned a lot and it will definitely make a big difference for me in the future, where I hope to have set up my own shop.

“As a barber or hairstylist, you regularly see clients, get their life stories, and hear about their issues. Especially men in general, they get very personal and feel like they can talk to you about a lot more.

“We are absolutely delighted to be the first college to launch Lions Academy,” said Matt Harbour, Deputy Principal and CEO of South Devon College.

“Mental health is so important to us here at South Devon College, particularly in the wake of Covid 19. We see every day the impact of the past two years on our young people in particular, but this is an issue wider within our community.

“We are thrilled to be able to deliver Lions Academy training to our hairdressing, hairdressing and beauty staff and students. This will equip them for the conversations they will inevitably have with their future clients and hopefully provide them with the tools they need to identify the signs of suicidal thoughts and ultimately save lives.

To learn more about The Lions Barber Collective, visit

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