During this year’s Black History Month, Equality and Diversity Officer Natasha Mutch-Vidal has been addressing the issue of black male mental health through the Man Up! event which saw over 200 students talk about tackling it and haircuts.
With Afro-Caribbean men found to be five times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and 44% more likely to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act the Man Up! black male mental health panel discussion aimed to confront this.
The event focused on the cultural importance of the barber shop to the afro-caribbean community and how barbers could play a role in client’s mental health. To put this idea into practice, the Union hosted an afro-caribbean pop up barbers for the first time ever, where event attendees were offered a free haircut.
At the pop-up Barbershop on Wednesday 8, 10 students were offered free haircuts. Each client had intimate conversations with the barber Julian from local shop Union Barbers ranging from discussions on mental health to government and politics.
The Black History Month programme was put together by Equality and Diversity Officer Natasha Mutch-Vidal who got the idea for the Man Up! event from watching Inua Ellams’ Barbershop Chronicles:
“The idea of the barbershop as a space of wellbeing for young black men to talk through anything on their mind appealed to me. I wanted to bring this to the Union to see if our black male students would benefit from a different provision to mental health.”
Making up the Man Up! Panel included Patrick Vernon director of Black Thrive a programme that tackles mental health inequalities within Lambeth, Malcolm Phillips, manager of the Oremi Centre an Afro-Caribbean mental health resource centre in West London and Tamika Roper who wrote the paper ‘Is having a haircut good for your mental health?’ which gives insight into the culturally therapeutic experience of the barbershop.
The panel’s discussion highlighted the lack of cultural competency in current mental health provisions and the need to diversify the approach to ensure that afro-caribbean communities are reached. Making mental health services more accessible and having practical support embedded into everyday services like barbershops is the answer.
“Developing the skills that barbers already have in their client facing role like active listening whilst giving them the ability to signpost their clients will mean that those in the barbershop can receive more than just a haircut and chat and end up with practical support.”
The Man Up! event was just one of the many events involved in this year’s Black History Month which was a huge success.