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 MindStylz Reports

Shawn’s Barbershop

Left to right: Dr. Jan Owens-Lane, EDTF Chair and presenter, with Clint Boyd, Jr., barber at Shawn’s Barbershop, Hamden, CT

Report by Michael Farrow

EDTF Coordinator and Graduate Student at University of Rhode Island

Treatment for mental health has been, historically, under used by people of color, particularly men of color. Studies suggest black males mistrust treatment providers, dismiss signs of psychopathology, and are more likely to attempt to overcome psychological distress by themselves, or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Among black people of the community, barbers, hair stylists, clergy, and family members, are trusted as mentors, sounding boards and people to recommend sound advice.

The Mindstylz project aims to bridge the gap among people of color, mental health treatment providers, and their community members, specifically barbers and hairstylists. Members of the Ethnic Diversity Task Force (EDTF) meet with barbers and hairstylists to help them recognize psychological distress among their clientele and provide gentle referrals for treatment providers.

Recently, Jan Owens-Lane, PhD, Chair of EDTF, and two members of EDTF, Faithlynn Morris, MA and Michael Farrow, MA had the opportunity to present to four barbers at Shawn’s Barbershop in Hamden, Connecticut. The workshop opened with a lively discussion about mental health related problems among the black community and experiences specifically faced by patrons of Shawn’s Barber Shop.

The barbers shared their experiences of how they have encountered individuals with mental health issues and how they have responded to these situations. The barbers were open to learning about new ways to intervene and help those they serve in the community. The presentation ended with a discussion about how the barbers maintain a healthy mental state and ways they de-stress after hearing about many problems their clients are having in their lives on a daily basis. EDTF members presented the barbers with additional techniques to help reduce daily stress.

Overall, the workshop appeared to be a success. The barbers were able to reflect on their important role within the black community, learn how to identify and cope with psychological distress, and discuss ways of referring their clients to seek additional resources if needed in the community. Each barber was given a folder with helpful stress reduction strategies, referral resource list of mental health providers of color in the state – among other helpful materials.

Shawn’s Barbershop

Left to right: Michael Farrow, doctoral student in Psychology, University of Rhode Island and EDTF Coordinator and presenter at Shawn’s Barbershop; Dr. Jan Owens-Lane; Faithlynn Morris, MA in Forensic Psychology, John Jay College and EDTF presenter

Report by Faithlynn Morris

EDTF member and graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Mental health is stigmatized and misunderstood in communities around the country. This is especially true in communities of color, where expectations of strength and perseverance often further complicate this reality. For Black men in particular, few spaces exist to facilitate honest and emotional conversations. Thankfully, one space where such candidness often happens naturally and comfortably is the Black barbershop in the community.

On July 10, 2016, Dr. Jan Owens-Lane and two graduate student members of the Ethnic Diversity Task Force: myself and Michael Farrow, University of Rhode Island, did a MindStylz presentation at Shawn’s Barbershop in Hamden, CT. The shop itself was spacious and welcoming, an environment maintained by the men who work there every day.

The four barbers of Shawn’s Barbershop were open and communicative in discussing their own struggles along with those of their clients. The presentation focused on the symptoms and treatments of depression and anxiety, respectively, as well as how to “gently” make mental health referrals in the community and self-care.

The barbers were receptive to the information presented, at some points offering suggestions to better access mental health services within the community. Their willingness to share made for a presentation that was both informative and interactive, creating a space that soon felt warm and familiar. It’s safe to assume this is the same atmosphere that keeps so many clients coming back cut after cut.

Willie C’s Unisex Barbershop

Left to right, standing: Dr. Jan Owens-Lane; barber Billy C. Mewborn; Kaye Ramirez, EDTF presenter and University of Hartford Doctoral Student in Psychology; Willie C. Mewborn, Owner of Willie C’s Unisex Barbershop in New Haven over 30 years; seated: Dr. Reginald Simmons, EDTF presenter and Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Central Connecticut State University

Report by Kaye Ramirez

EDTF member and doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at University of Hartford

Historically, black men have had very few places where they feel free to discuss important issues related to mental health. Stigma, social barriers, and economic obstacles often bring many men of color with overgrown hair and a heavy weight on their shoulders to barbershops. Staff at Willie C's Barbershop in New Haven are working together to help stop the "suffering in silence" they have seen among some of their clients over the years.

Above and beyond silent awareness, Willie C's Barbershop has decided to take action. They are participants of the MindStylz program, which is a collaborative project between hair stylists, barbers, and the Ethnic Diversity Task Force (EDTF) of the Connecticut Psychological Association (CPA) to increase mental health awareness in communities of color. By attending a training session at their barbershop on June 22, 2016 , the barbers at Willie C's Barbershop are better equipped to recognize mental health symptoms and make discreet referrals to mental health providers of color in the community (i.e., referral list provided) that may have previously been out of reach.

Despite the hundreds of hair salons and barbershops in New Haven, Willie C's Barbershop stands out as a gem. Rather than cold metal and concrete floors, Willie C's is lined with warm wood surfaces and boasts an old-school feel. Instead of flat screen plasma televisions, the shop is decorated with antique toys, novelty items, and photographs of historic events in black history.

More importantly, the barbers create a cozy and inviting atmosphere through their humor, friendly demeanor, and open ears. The entrepreneurs and father-son duo, Willie and Billy C., have many years of combined experience cutting, trimming, and styling hair. The team has recognized that many clients feel comfortable talking to them about their lives and asking for advice. Many of their customers started coming to their barbershop years ago and it is no wonder most of them return time and time again.

Willie C’s Unisex Barbershop

Left to right: Dr. Simmons, Billy C. and Willie C.