The Pontypool barber has undergone suicide prevention training

A BARBER in Pontypool has undergone special training to enable him to spot potential signs of suicidal thoughts in his clients – and how to give them the support they need.

James Austin, owner of Austin & Co on Commercial Street, decided to take the course run by The Lions Barber Collective – an organization dedicated to supporting men struggling with their mental health – after his cousin lost two friends in the thirty by suicide.

Mr Austin, who opened his shop in March on his 25th birthday, said: ‘Barbers are in a unique position in that people come in and tend to be honest about how they feel .

“People tell us about things they don’t want to tell their family or feel like they can’t tell their close friends.

“I think people find it easier to talk to someone like a barber because it can be difficult to talk to people close to them about things like suicide, especially if they’re in pain.

“If anyone wants to come talk to me, they can.”

The training course consists of learning the signs to look for – such as if someone’s mannerisms or appearances are changing, or if a regular customer starts coming in at different times or acting differently – followed by a review , which Mr. Austin succeeded the first time. New employee Jack Woods will also provide training.

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Mr Austin said: “With some people you can just tell if someone isn’t quite themselves, it’s just a matter of talking to them about it and approaching them in the right way.

“It hits home when someone in your family suffers from it.

“I went out for a drink with my cousin a few weeks ago and he told me about his friends who committed suicide.

“They were both young men in their thirties, I thought about it and came to the conclusion that if I could help people, I would like to.

“Suicide is not something people talk about, but people are starting to do it because I’m starting to see things on TV about it and I love helping out.”

For more information about The Lions Barber Collective, visit

  • If you are having suicidal thoughts, free assistance is available from The Samaritans 24 hours a day on 116 123. Welsh language service is available on 0808 164 0123.