Visitors experience Barbertalks, at Museum of the Future in World Government Summit 2017, in Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: A recent programme in the UK placing barbers in suicide intervention training has proven that governments can play a role in empowering ‘human sensors’ to prevent stigmatised phenomena such as suicide among men.

A stall at the Museum of Future held alongside the World Government Summit exhibited the concept of the training programme, which was first created after a survey showed that 71 per cent of men have a good, or in some cases a very good, relationship with their barber.

Gerry Cadogan, public health principal and Lions Barber Collective Board member, from the UK, told Gulf News that more than 50 per cent of men are more likely to discuss private issues, such as depression and other mental health issues, with their barber. Meanwhile, 59 per cent of the 1,900 men surveyed across the UK rated their patient-to-doctor relationship as just average or poor.

“Noticing high male suicide rate, which has been increasing, we wanted to develop a training package for barbers that includes facts about suicide to give them the opportunity to ask the right questions that will enable a client to talk to them — if they want to — about how they feel,” she said.

The Lions Barber Collective was then created to take advantage of the fact that men often open up when they chat to their barbers. Within the collective, a mental health awareness programme called BarberTalk was created to help barbers recognise the signs of different mental health issues as well as teach them how to talk about such issues without judgement but through active listening.

“If a client discloses that they have a problem or are feeling depressed, then we can support them and find help for them by referring them to the right people. This becomes a partnership rather than each person feeling like they’re on their own,” added Cadogan.