From education to employment

South Devon College barbering students to get suicide prevention training

Lions Barber Academy with South Devon College students

Lions Barber Academy with South Devon College students

Barbering and hairdressing students at South Devon College will now get suicide prevention training as part of their qualifications. 

South Devon College in Torquay and The Lions Barber Collective have joined forces to set up the first ever Lions Barber Academy. 

The charity was founded by the Torquay-based and internationally recognised barber, Tom Chapman. After losing a friend to suicide, Tom, a former South Devon College student, set out to do something to help prevent others from taking their own lives.

“It’s a huge privilege to launch the first Lions Barber Academy at South Devon College where I was a student. People in the hair and beauty industry hold a privileged space in people’s lives. Our aim is to create a non-judgemental environment, to recognise signs of mental health suffering and signpost individuals to the support they need. Training these students is the only way to create a legacy of long-standing, real change,” said Tom.

In his presentation at the launch, attended by students, college staff and local employers, Tom explained that 72% of those who take their own lives have had no contact with mental health services in the 12 months before their death, but have probably had a haircut.

“If we can reach out to those people, of which the majority are men, then we can hopefully prevent more people taking their own lives,” he said.

The partnership will result in this suicide prevention training being incorporated into all of South Devon College barbering and hair and beauty courses. The multi -award winning training teaches the four pillars of RECOGNISE, ASK, LISTEN and HELP to HELP. Bridging the gap between the communities the hair industry serves and the professionals and charities available to them.

‘We are absolutely thrilled to be the first college to launch the Lions Academy,” said Matt Harbour, Deputy Principal and CEO at South Devon College.

 “Tom Chapman studied here at the college and we are so pleased he’s remembered us and continues to work collaboratively with our curriculum team, It is absolutely invaluable to have this kind of innovation and industry insight fed back into the College.

Mental health is so important to us here at South Devon College, particularly in the wake of Covid 19. We are seeing every day the impact of the last two years on our young people particularly, but this is a wider problem within our community.

We’re excited to be able to deliver The Lions Academy training to our barbering, hair and beauty staff and students. This will equip them for the conversations they will inevitably have with their future clients and hopefully will provide the tools they need to identify signs of suicidal thoughts and ultimately to save lives.”

Full time Level 2 Barbering student, James Webb agrees the Academy will help him in his future career.

Lions Barber Academy at South Devon College
Tom Chapman with Maria Woodger, Assistant Principal of South Devon College and students.

“It was great seeing Tom Chapman talk about the charity in person. I learnt a lot from it and will definitely make a big difference in the future for me, where I’ll hopefully have set up my own shop.

“As a barber or hairdresser you see clients regularly, get their life story, and hear about their problems. Especially men in general, they get very personal and feel like they can talk to you about a lot more.”

The partnership was launched on the eve of Time to Talk Day; the nation’s biggest mental health conversation (Thursday Feb 3rd). Set up by the mental health charity Mind it’s a day that friends, families, communities and workplaces come together to talk, listen and change lives.

Related Articles