The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

Cutting-edge the chance to

- By Ross Crae

Small talk with the person holding the scissors is a familiar part of the haircut experience for many of us.

But, for some, it extends beyond matters of where they’re going on their next holiday to much more serious topics, with a recent study revealing that British men are more comfortabl­e talking to their barber than their GP about mental health struggles.

Now, with public health initiative­s increasing­ly looking to proactivel­y make a difference, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SVRU) and mental health charity Brothers In Arms (BIA) have come together to deliver special training to secondyear hair styling and barber HND students at Glasgow Clyde College (GCC).

The course in how to identify warning signs and signpost support had been piloted at Rebel Rebel and a number of other salons in Glasgow before being rolled out to the next wave of workers, many of whom have already identified situations in which they felt unprepared to have such conversati­ons.

“The qualificat­ion that they have is great and gives them good skills,” explained Claire Glen, Assistant Principal for the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing at GCC.

“When they’ve got somebody in a chair with them, sometimes it could be for half an hour, sometimes it could be hours. When they go on placement, they hear things in a salon, but don’t know how to support somebody.

“The students would feed back to their lecturers that somebody had said something to them and they just didn’t know what to say or do, or somebody missed their appointmen­t and they’re a wee bit worried about them.”

The course will give students training on how to support clients if they spot any warning signs.

The training, which uses a mix of teaching and role play sessions, educates students on the appropriat­e steps to take when a client makes an important disclosure, as well as on issues relating to alcohol and drugs.

Using the Time, Space and Compassion approach to suicide prevention, developed by the Scottish Government, students will be coached on how to best assist.

Heather Gray, a hairdressi­ng student who took part in the first session, said the training would help her be more confident to approach and assist in future.

“Nowadays most people have somebody in their lives or know somebody who has been affected by mental health and maybe even suicide,” she said.

“Knowing what to say and how to act and provide vital informatio­n on services is so important as a lot of people are not aware. I think the training should be offered everywhere that it can be.

“The main things I took away were the stats on mental health and suicide, especially in males.

“It’s really shocking and upsetting to know that the numbers are so high and how males feel that they really just don’t know where to turn or feel that they can’t open up without being a burden or feeling ashamed.

“The training has made me more confident to approach or try to assist someone who may be struggling and hopefully help them by listening and letting them know there is help and where they can get it.

“If it helps one person, then it’s worth it.”

Brothers In Arms, who run a free app for men to self-manage their own mental wellbeing, are heavily involved in the sessions and can provide the aftercare element to any

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