Barbershops are doubling as therapist havens for Black men, helping to eliminate stigma.
Across the nation, barbershops have long served as more than just hair-cutting havens for Black men. They’re community hubs, cultural touchstones, and, increasingly, spaces for addressing a critical need: mental health support. This trend is particularly evident in California, where initiatives like the Greater Sacramento Urban League’s “Cut to the Chase” program transform barbershops into safe spaces for open dialogue and healing.
Kendall Robinson, owner of Five Starr Fades in Sacramento, has witnessed firsthand the power of the barbershop as a sanctuary for mental well-being. For decades, he’s not only trimmed hair but also provided a listening ear and words of encouragement to patrons seeking solace and connection. Recognizing this inherent therapeutic quality, Robinson partnered with the Urban League to host monthly group therapy sessions within his barbershop.
“The barbershop is one of the most safe places you can go and feel relaxed,” Robinson explained in a recent interview. “It’s like family.” This sense of familiarity and trust fosters an environment where men feel comfortable opening up about their struggles, whether it’s navigating fatherhood, coping with job loss, or confronting the unique challenges faced by Black men in America.
As outlined in a new report, the Cut to the Chase program offers a crucial alternative to traditional therapy settings, which can often feel sterile and intimidating, particularly for men of color. In the familiar surroundings of the barbershop, surrounded by peers, the stigma surrounding mental health melts away, paving the way for honest conversations and shared vulnerability.
The program’s impact has been profound. Participants report decreased stress and anxiety, improved communication skills, and greater self-awareness. One participant, Jonno Strickling, who lives in Sacramento, said, “For so long, there’s been this stigma that, ‘No, I cannot go see a therapist. No, I do not want to go see a counselor because I’m going to be looked at funny.’ And that’s not true… we all need help.”
This initiative echoes a similar effort in South Los Angeles, where the Brotherhood Crusade’s Barbershop Mental Health Coalition has partnered with local barbershops to provide free individual and group therapy sessions. Recognizing the high prevalence of mental health issues among Black men, the Coalition aims to make mental health support as accessible as a haircut.
These California-based initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg. Across the country, barbershops are recognizing their potential to address the mental health needs of Black men. It’s becoming a beacon of hope, a platform for vulnerability, and a testament to the enduring power of community in fostering mental well-being.
Mental health experts say that this positive shift holds immense promise for the future. By leveraging the trusted space of the barbershop and harnessing the power of peer support, these initiatives are paving the way for a future where Black men feel empowered to prioritize their mental health. This is an important shift that needs to take place so these men no longer feel like they have to suffer in silence but can find solace and strength within the very walls where they’ve always found acceptance and belonging.