How Mental Health Grows With Every Hair Cut

For anyone struggling financially, finding food and shelter is the priority; personal grooming is much lower on the list. For those without the funds, going without a haircut is just another form of isolation. But there’s more to haircuts than socialization. Haircuts have a direct impact on mental health.


As lockdown restrictions are slowly lifted, seats in barber shops and hair salons are among the most coveted places to be right now.


While some people have had fun sporting low maintenance and unkempt hairdos for the past year, most are excited to get their personal grooming back in check. That said, getting a haircut is seldom just about the haircut – it is a social experience, something else that has absent for far too long.


Sitting in the barber’s chair and listening in on countless stories, a haircut becomes about the laughter, the sports debates, and the experience. There is a sense of camaraderie that rivals most social experiences.


For those without the funds, going without a haircut is just another form of isolation. But there’s more to haircuts than socialization. Haircuts have a direct impact on mental health. A 2016 report from the Australian Institute of Male Health and Studies suggests that men, especially, might find wellbeing benefits from a visit to the barber.


The report states, “Although men are at almost four times higher risk of committing suicide than women, men tend to seek help for physical and emotional problems less than women do.” Men are generally “less likely than women to want to discuss problems with a therapist or seek emotional support.” But research indicates that men are willing to speak with their barber; “Barbers are a trusted and respected information source which allows individuals to be themselves.”


“Hairdressers are a potentially valuable source of natural caregivers.” The report continues, “Hairstylists reported themselves as being reasonably able to identify, in their older customers, symptoms of depression, dementia and self-neglect.” With that in mind, “some stylists said they would be interested in receiving formal training in mental health.”


“Apart from the role of quasi therapy centre, the barbershop can also be a place for customers to talk and ventilate feelings.”


“The barbershop is not just for haircare, but to socialise and discuss issues. Social interactions were related to male bonding, culture-specific history, and argumentation.” Men at barbershops “engage in conversations on a range of topics including church, family, death and politics. Such talk could range from fun to deeply meaningful, but were in themselves important aspects of culture and community.”


For anyone struggling financially, finding food and shelter is the priority; personal grooming is much lower on the list. Recognizing that personal grooming can be difficult, and even a luxury, for elder homeless men, Haven Toronto provides clients with free haircuts onsite by a professional barber who visits weekly.


“You look like a million bucks!” one Haven Toronto client said to another. “I feel like a million bucks!” he replied.


When Toronto went into lockdown, hair salons and barbershops temporarily closed; this was also the case at the drop-in centre. However, with the return of free haircuts, the barber service will quickly return to being one of the most popular programs offered at Haven Toronto. Clients will use the opportunity to improve their mental health, socialize, and be part of a community.


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