Hair salons MUST be seen as an essential service says mental health campaigner


To mark the launch of his documentary The £1.7 Million Haircut mental health campaigner and barber Tom Chapman says hairdressers and barbers MUST be seen as an essential service as fears a mental health crisis is looming.

In his moving new documentary about male suicide, which launched today on Amazon Prime, Tom tells the story of how the unexpected death of his school friend made him give his barber shop business and take on a one man mission to save lives, one haircut at a time.

The economic burden of each life lost to suicide is estimated at £1.7M — UK Department of Health

With someone in the UK taking their own life every 120 minutes, 75% of them being men, the need for change is more crucial than ever. The £1.7 Million Haircut follows Tom taking the challenge head on to break down the stigma around men discussing their mental health. Tom meets with influential leaders in the South West to expose the stark reality the impact suicide has on communities, healthcare services and the economy.

Recognising that barbers and hair professionals are often a trusted confidant and friendly ear to their customers, the documentary shows Tom’s efforts to develop a clinically backed training programme – BarberTalk – for hair stylists to support their clients and communities.

After the death of his friend Alex, Torquay based barber Tom Chapman founded the charity ‘The Lions Barber Collective’. Its mission is to create non-clinical, non-judgemental safe spaces where men feel comfortable to talk about their mental health and to signpost them to support and information.

Tom Chapman said “The economic impact per suicide is something I had not really considered before, loss of earning, loss of employment, inquests into the death, it amounts to so much more than we could ever imagine. It now makes what we are doing as a charity even more important, to save lives and make a difference to families out there who have been subject to such tragedy. I am now making it my mission to create a world free from suicide, how could we ask for anything less?”.

Made by ‘Films by Wonder’, the film is produced by Lisa Gardiner, directed by Josh Pratt and demonstrates the charity’s obvious impact on people’s lives. We meet the official ambassadors of the charity, Dan Davies, Darren Birch and Wez Jones who help deliver the BarberTalk training across the country and beyond. Each share their story of helping their clients as well as close personal accounts of the reality of coping with mental health issues – from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

Due for release in May, the documentary builds on the charity’s momentum to become a global movement by training barbers all over the world to recognise when someone is struggling and support them to find further help. And, despite the positive aspects of meeting Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge as well as Tom receiving the Points of Light Award from former Prime Minister, Theresa May, it also shows the reality of the challenges of running a charity. The viewer sees upfront the ever-growing burden of trying to acquire funding and the tough decisions that Tom must make to secure its future.

‘The £1.7 Million Haircut’ was released on Amazon Prime this week. I’m sure our readers will join us in thanking Tom for his life-saving work.