Short, Black N Sides is a pilot project that aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental health in black minority ethnic (BME) communities in Sandwell.

The black barbershop has historical importance in the community and provides men with a safe space to chat. Therefore it is the perfect place to embed the Short Black N Sides project and start conversations about mental health.

Men’s relationship with mental health is a challenging one. Asking for help can be hard as a man who feels an obligation to his family, needs to be seen as the lynchpin or perhaps will be ostracised by his peer group.

We know that most men visit the barbershop on a regular basis. In fact, men generally see the same barber, unlike their GP and when someone visits their barber regularly a relationship is built and warning signs around their mental health can be seen far more easily. In addition, that relationship builds trust in time and naturally men tend to open up more.

It might just be about the stresses and strains of work or a relationship – mental health isn’t just about people having suicidal or psychotic thoughts!

The Short Black N Sides Barbershop Project has 4 main aims;

  • to support males from BME communities to stay well and normalise mental health by having people they can identify with, in a safe place to talk about their day to day issues or lived experience of mental health difficulties.
  • to build safe and resilient communities where mental health is seen as everyone’s responsibility and communities take ownership and develop their own solutions that become embedded, enabling them to be self-sustaining.
  • to deliver an arts based approach to the work and use ‘the arts’ to tell stories, challenge communities, build confidence, and spread awareness and positive, powerful messages/images of mental health.
  • to raise awareness of mental health within BME communities and across the borough to challenge the stigma and discrimination that exists.

In 2018 it is widely recognised that we all have a social responsibility towards mental health. It’s everyone’s business, as it’s something that we all have just as we all have physical health.

Different ethnic groups have different rates and experiences of mental health difficulties, reflecting their different cultural and socio-economic contexts and access to culturally appropriate treatments.

In general people from BME communities living in the UK are;

  • more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health difficulty
  • more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital
  • more likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment
  • more likely to disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and further deterioration in their mental health.

These differences may be explained by a number of factors, including poverty and racism. They may also be because mainstream mental health services often fail to understand or provide services that are acceptable and accessible to non-white British communities and meet their particular cultural and other needs.

However, it is not only services that fall short. Within the BME community there is a stigma attached to mental health and until these beliefs and misconceptions are challenged and mental health achieves parity of esteem with physical health it will continue to be an issue that isn’t talked about by friends, families, neighbours and wider communities. It is this wider societal school of thought that needs educating through a fresh and innovative approach driven at the heart of the community.

Starting these conversations throughout the borough of Sandwell will also start to normalise mental health and this will have an impact on wider societal attitudes that exist to start to raise a greater awareness around mental health.

We are currently recruiting barbershops in West Bromwich and Smethwick so please contact Lucy Dunstan on 07460 498888 or [email protected] for further information.