Episode 5 | The Confess Project: Mental Health & The Barber Chair July 25, 2021
GUEST: Lorenzo Lewis, Founder and CEO of The Confess Project
For Lorenzo Lewis, a barber chair is more than a place to settle in for a haircut or shave. It’s a place where men and boys of color can feel safe and supported in sharing their pain and worries. Since 2016, Lewis’ Confess Project has confronted the stigma around mental health for men of color, largely by training barbers to become mental health advocates who can share mental health strategies and coping skills. In this episode, we ask Lewis about how he’s helping barbers learn the communication and listening skills to serve on the frontlines of mental health care.
Lorenzo Lewis is a speaker, entrepreneur, author, and founder and CEO of The Confess Project. Born in jail to an incarcerated mother, Lorenzo struggled with depression, anxiety, and anger throughout his youth. At 17, after a brief incarceration, Lewis decided to turn his life around. He graduated from college and sought help for his mental health issues, eventually becoming a mental health advocate himself. Since then, he has become a sought-after speaker. He also is the recipient of the 2019 National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Multicultural Outreach Award and Richard E. Tompkins Torch Award from the Central Texas African American Family Support Conference.
BRAD PHILLIPS, HOST, THE SPEAK GOOD PODCAST:
I’ve been a David Letterman fan for as long as I can remember – or, at least from the time I was a teenager, old enough to trick my parents by waiting until they had fallen asleep and sneaking downstairs at 12:35 in the morning to catch a few minutes of the groundbreaking Late Night with David Letterman.
My fascination with Dave lasted for years. Not only did I record his shows every night – until the much-used and re-used VHS tape had completely worn out, but I watched every interview I could when his usual role was flipped, and he was the one being interviewed.
The thing about Dave is he usually didn’t let people get too close. He kept what many people called an “ironic distance,” guarding his emotional life from public view. Occasionally, you might get a glimpse of the man behind the mask, but more times than not, you got a performance, a sarcastic retort, a witty rejoinder.
After following his career for a few decades, I started to notice a shift in his public demeanor. Perhaps having a child softened him. Maybe his life-saving heart surgery opened him up in more ways than one. Or, perhaps the embarrassing and career-threatening revelation of having had adulterous relationships with members of his staff tore down his external artifice.
Whatever the reason, he started opening up more, as he did in this interview with Oprah Winfrey, in 2013.
(SOUNDBITE OF DAVID LETTERMAN INTERVIEW WITH OPRAH WINFREY)
Oprah: “I’ve read about your struggle with depression. Do you still get depressed?”
David Letterman: “I never knew what the depression was. I knew what “I’m kind of sad today,” “I’m kind of blue today,” “Oh geez, the Reds lost,” … I knew that. This, I’m telling you is you get on an elevator and the bottom drops out and you can’t stand looking at the sunlight. You can’t wait to get back in bed at night. You’re shaking. You’re shivering. I went through this for about six months and, oh my god.”
Oprah: “How were you able to work every day being depressed?”
Letterman: “I just pushed through it. I had to push through it.”
Oprah: “Could you be funny?”
Letterman: “Well as funny as you can when you’re depressed, but it’s a sinkhole and people who have gone through it know exactly what I’m talking about it’s a sinkhole.”
That David Letterman – a man whose talent I so admired – was able to drop all pretense and share his experiences with millions of people – had an outsize effect on me.
Perhaps the reason I had been so fascinated with Dave was because I recognized myself in him. I, too, used sarcasm to keep people at a distance. I, too, was struggling beneath the surface, but didn’t trust people enough to let them see it. I, too, became an expert at presenting myself to others in a manner that made them see as I wanted them to – as someone who “had it all together,” even when he didn’t.
So, with the encouragement of that familiar stranger from late-night TV, I consulted with my physician and started treating, not depression in my case, but lifelong anxiety: Social anxiety. Relationship anxiety. Professional anxiety. Keeping up with the Jones’s anxiety.
Thank goodness I allowed anti-anxiety medication into my life. My relationship with my wife has never been stronger. That constant feeling of pressure on my chest is mostly gone. My sense of existential dread has been replaced with, well, I still kind of have that, but it’s not quite as bad as it used to be.
The information I just shared with you about me took me until now, in my late 40s, to be able to say out loud. Issues related to mental health often come attached with a stigma – one that’s self-imposed, as it was in my case – and one that’s applied by others, who view issues related to mental health as signs of weakness or poor character. But, because Dave speaking out about it helped me, I decided to be open about it in the hopes of maybe helping somebody else.
And I’m fortunate, because the people in my life understand the importance of mental health and never attached a stigma to it. But not everyone else is so lucky.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “negative attitudes and beliefs towards people who live with mental health conditions is pervasive within the U.S. and can be particularly strong within the Black community. One study showed that 63 percent of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness.” That results in far too many people going undiagnosed or untreated – and, tragically, there’s a huge cost to that. More Black men between the ages of 20-44 die of suicide than cancer, making suicide the fourth highest cause of death for Black men in that age range.
So, my guest today had an idea. He thought, if boys and men of color don’t have a space to talk about these issues and find help, how can we create that space? And he landed upon a brilliant solution – one that takes advantage of spaces that have particular importance in many communities.
The Black barbershop has historic significance. Joyce Balls-Berry, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine who was the lead author of a paper published in a medical humanities journal, explained it like this:
“In the post-Reconstruction South of the 1890s, upscale Black-owned barbershops with a White clientele were often targets of vandalism and arson by resentful poor White mobs. At this point, Black barbers began opening shops in the Black community specifically to serve Black men. These barbershops quickly became a gathering place where Black men could gather to socialize, play chess and checkers, and discuss politics. The rise of Jim Crow laws limited spaces where Blacks could gather, and the barbershop filled this void, similar to Black churches but on a smaller scale. Many politically active barbers handpicked the reading materials, and the barbershop provided an opportunity for men to read Black newspapers and magazines. Barbers also conducted voter-registration campaigns. Civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael attributed his early political education to his weekly visits to a barbershop in Harlem.”
My guest today, Lorenzo Lewis, is the founder and CEO of The Confess Project, which has trained more than 300 barbers in more than 25 cities and is on track to train 800 more nationwide by the end of the year, for a total of 1,000. Recently, Fast Company named The Confess Project as one of “The 10 most innovative health companies of 2021.” He is a recipient of the Public Lifesaver Award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and a Multicultural Outreach Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Lorenzo, it is a real honor and treat to have you here. Thank you very much for joining The Speak Good Podcast.
Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad to be here, Brad, and look forward to jumping right in. Thank you again.
Maybe we could just jump in with your story. I know that you’ve been very open about your own mental health and your life story that led you to where you are now. Just for our listeners, who aren’t aware of it, could you set the stage with your mental health journey?
Yeah. My mental health journey started in a prison. My mother was incarcerated when she went into labor. Northern New Jersey … she was incarcerated, there for a crime and she went into labor. I always tell people my life started inside of the world’s most horrendous place, which is a jail cell. And so that in itself led to a lifelong journey of me going through childhood trauma and juvenile incarceration, going through early-stage depression and undiagnosed depression at that. And then leading to a lot of destructive behaviors, joining gangs, loss of confidence, lack of identity, and that, in itself, coming from a family line of individuals impacted by a serious mental illness, individuals impacted by incarceration and lack of education, and receiving their just adequate education, my environment was an encompass of who I was and who I was becoming. That , in itself, I had some light there. I grew up in my aunt’s beauty salon. As a kid, I went there from the age of five. My auntie, my uncle took care of me my whole life, due to my parents, their own mental health, and their own legal issues. And so, I’m really grateful that journey starting off there in her shop really helped (with) the work that I do now with the Confess Project. And I’m sure we’ll jump into that, but that’s a little bit of my journey. I was diagnosed with major depression later in my twenties, went to counseling, still go to counseling now, and it’s just striving for positive mental health is just a lifelong journey of striving to become your best self, regardless of life’s triggers and pain. So that’s just a little bit about me, Brad. I’m excited to be here.
I think there’s a lot of different communities that have stigma around mental health. But, clearly, as I mentioned in the show’s open, one study showed that 63 percent of African Americans believe that mental health condition is a sign of a personal weakness, only one in three black adults who need mental health care receive it. So clearly there’s a need for this. What made you see? Was there an a-ha moment where you realized the barbershop is the place to be able to get those confessions?
Yeah, I grew up there as a kid, you know, my aunt owned a beauty salon for about 25 years and I realized that, going as a kid, I saw so many women’s and men’s lives be transformed just by the conversation that they had (inaudible.) It was magnificent as a child to really see that. But I never would’ve thought I would’ve took that on as my life and career journey. And realizing that going to her beauty shop was really the electrifying and most replicated way to change African-American life, because this is one of the only institutions.
I mentioned in the show open the historic importance and significance of the black barbershop as a place for not only community gathering, but also political activism and a whole host of other issues. When I get a haircut, it’s maybe a 20 minute in and out. It’s a fast operation. I don’t know the barber well, other than the small casual chit-chat we make. Could you give us a sense when you say that you went into the barbershop and would have these extended conversations as a child, give us a sense, paint the picture of what that community gathering space is like.
So as a kid, I would, 2:45 in the afternoon, I would get out there and I would remember swinging that brown wooden door and walk in there to the checkered floor and the small lobby there with the TV on, and, you know, people sitting there waiting to get their hair done and get their hair cut. And it was about four or five stylers and one barber and just going in there and plopping down on the sofa and really starting to talk about my day to the women that were there waiting to get their hair done, or those who were in the chair. Watching the men that would come in there to at that time, get a curl or get a high top fade and really watching people unveil, you know, people lose folks to death or crime, pouring their emotions out there in the chair. People comforting them, right there. People coming in and getting that new job. Parent had a new job. “I’m excited to be able to take care of my family?” “I’ll get a good raise.” Watching those barbers and stylists empower each other, watching them empower their clients, that was really powerful. And so that is a natural transaction that happens. It just happens with a natural ability that’s very organic. And as I grew older to realize I started working in the behavioral health system. I realized how broken a 60-year-old system. We really needed to figure out how to re-imagine it. Help it to work in better serving cultural identities. And I thought about my aunt’s beauty salon and I thought about those same transactions. I thought about what if we could have them to be, you know, therapists and help them to be advocates and those being a leader, you know, they’re already close with shavers and, you know, they are the closest folks, besides our family, that can get next to us with a razor. And that really empowered me to know that what if we can engage them with the tools. And that really allowed me to just see the best in folks.
Barbers are almost professional listeners. They hear the conversations around them. They have to become very gifted and adept at being able to hear what’s going on and be able to respond to it, but they’re not trained therapists. So how do you train the barbers to be able to recognize the signs of somebody who might be in trouble or in need of help. And then, how to direct them toward the resources that are available in their communities to be able to serve them?
Absolutely, absolutely. So, we trained them to be advocates, right? We train them to be great listeners. They are listeners by trade. They are groomers and stylists by profession, while knowing they are the gatekeepers of our community. They are natural leaders and we train them on four areas, active listening, positive communication, stigma reduction, and validation. These are our four cornerstone approaches that we’ve now worked with Harvard University to see them. Barbers can truly be mental health and suicide prevention gatekeepers. This is also a replicated model that also allows them to now also engage with our clinical community, because they are barbers and they’re advocates, right? They have a trade to cut hair, to groom, to make you feel your best hourly. By having these skills, they really truly get to change lives. And now help to refer to clinical counseling in the local area, understanding where the crisis lines may be. Understanding that if someone makes a threat to harm themselves or others, that you can call an emergency line. And so, there’s mental health literacy that we’re teaching them so that they can have the mobilization skills to help in their communities by fighting suicidal ideations and giving people the hope they need. And they deserve to live a quality of life.
And again, those statistics, 63% of African Americans believed that a mental health condition is the sign of a personal weakness. Only one-in-three Black adults who need mental health care receive it. The fact that these barbers are trained to be able to recognize, for example, signs of suicidal ideation is so critical. And what I’m hoping you can walk us through is maybe pretending that I just sat in the barber’s chair. How are you training the barber to launch that conversation with me to try to figure out what’s going on with me? And maybe if I’m someone who would benefit from some sort of help.
Absolutely. We actually have a demonstration that we do during our training. We have a guy put on a mask and we have one of our participants talk to the guy with the mask. He’s talking to him and encouraging him. He’s listening to him. He’s eradicating the negative self-talk that the guys put back out. He’s telling him “I believe in you. I support you. There’s no pressure. When you talk about validation and active listening, it teaches you to not overtalk that person. It teaches you to not feel like (you have) to get in front of them and say, “Hey Doug, hey Brad, you’re being weak or you’re overdoing this. It teaches you to console them and be empathetic. That helps to open up the gateways to help them (with) their personal and giving them the support they really deserve. So that interview in the chair can be that client that visits a barber multiple times. Then just building that trust and relationship, when you have someone that tells you, “Hey, just thinking about you today. How’s your family doing? Hey, I see you next week. Let me know if you need anything. I got your back.” Encouraging them, that truly becomes the gateway. It’s really therapeutic. When you think about that relationship that’s being formed there, that really helps to open up opportunity. Also, our barbers are being taught that if someone is extremely agitated — maybe they’ve lost significant weight, maybe they feel really flustered or they have poor hygiene, they just seem like they are not themselves – these could be signs of a much grander issue. When they are aware of this, it is really powerful and it really helps to transform lives more than what we know. I don’t know of anything in the mental health and behavioral health space that can do this in that rapid amount of time with so many people, which about 100 people go to a barbershop a month. And I think this is a phenomenal way of how we’re capturing that. And if we need someone that needs to go and get more help, then we connect them to a therapist that’s on an ethical contract with us that states: Yes, we can receive referrals from his barbershop. I think that there’s a very streamlined professional, and best way to really help our communities one client at a time through the barber chair.
Absolutely. And when you see that person in the chair or the barber sees the person who, as you said, might seem agitated or have hygiene issues, how do you talk to the barbers about having that conversation, that, “Hey, there might be some resources available for you. Maybe you should talk to somebody. Let me help.”
A lot of it is letting the barbers know. We give them information, brochures, and tools. But beyond that, we have monthly coaching calls, what we call blitz calls, power calls with our barbers. Over 300 barbers every month. They’re coming to a call to learn more about the continuing education around how to support their communities. We have ambassadors in every city we’ve worked in. In our partnership with Gillette, we are working with barbers across all of these cities. And then a massive coalition of faith, giving them the tools and the resources. Once they go through their training, they get 12 months of coaching and support to being able to continue to have the conversation, being able to connect more with therapists. And I think that’s where it becomes the ripple effect, because we’re not just leaving that community and going on our way. We give them a whole lot of support to our engagement team, the technical assistance and coaching, which allows them to not only show up in their market place, but also allows them to really be people who can help save lives and get people to the support that they need.
That’s right. A few moments ago, you also talked about that mask that you use as part of your training demo. I think if I saw the video correctly, it’s like the Friday, the 13th Jason mask.
Which is the metaphor for encouraging people to take the mask off. And, you know, that sense of, I think bravado that we sometimes carry around with us. Encouraging people to take that down and be willing to be vulnerable is, in and of itself, such a gift and something that I think for many men – and as I’ve heard you talk about the customers that are being served, the Black community in Black barbershops – also something that is big with them. That you have to kind of appear macho. Can you talk about how you’ve observed that mask coming down and what it looks like, what it feels like when that happens, as you observe that happening for other people?
I think it takes people back to the memories of Friday the 13th, but it really also allows you to know that I tell people, and you know, we’re in Georgia, we’re in Mississippi, there’s tons of people walking around here with that mask on. They just not figured out a way or they don’t have the courage. They don’t know how to, they don’t know that this barbershop can support them in helping them to remove the mask. And I think it’s an impeccable demonstration because as we go through those talking points during our mock demonstration of asking them how they’re doing and the person with the mask is nodding, and I don’t need the help. And it’s just they’re diffusing the help. And they don’t want to be engaged and from there slowing down and listening and watching their mask unveil as that person gains trust. We show how trust is connected and that mask comes off. And that’s the most powerful an interaction that we can have. And it starts with just listening and being observant, and honoring them and celebrating them, right? They feel seen and heard. And when someone feels seen and heard, they ultimately become their best. And that’s why we say with The Confess Project is when I am my best when I confess. And I am at my best when I confess, I am my best when I confess. And this is a mantra that we use a part of the ribbon cutting experience with our barbers. Each city we walk through that: when you release this mask, you become your best. And so this is really powerful in helping us to see our communities thrive, heal, and grow.
I want to ask about the larger societal issues. Certainly, the George Floyd murder from last summer sparked a new nationwide conversation about race, but these are themes that have been familiar to millions of people in the United States for centuries. And I guess my question as it applies to mental health is in addition to all of the usual pressures that so many of us face on a daily basis, how much do you see that being compounded by those societal factors of underserved or ignored communities, or violence, or higher unemployment rates, or police violence? How much are those factors increasing mental health challenges in these communities?
I think a lot of it is truly … it’s exacerbated when you talk about race and the conflict that happened in our communities around how Black men and how Black communities look at themselves through that lens. It’s a very complicated, but it’s a scary lens because often we realize that we’re not only targeted, but that also that there’s a target on our back. And so, when you’re living like that, the day-to-day the stress that comes along with it and just the psychological effects, this is stressful. And this can draw out aggression. It can, you know, poor relationships. We realize that the impact of racism on mental health is a huge component of why individuals don’t go to seek professional medical care. Also realizing that 4 percent of clinicians are people of color. So the work that we do in barbershops, bringing it back is we really need frontline people, everyday people, that they can trust the communities to be advocates. Because the reality of it is, is a lot of these people are unlikely to go and get the help that they need because of the distrust factors, as we even know what COVID-19 and the apprehension of getting a shot and going to get the vaccination. And so, we have to think of how do we re-imagine our system and our communities. And part of this is the barbershop and that is the greatest solution.
You said that 4 percent of people in professions related to mental health are people of color, but I think only black men are what, 2 percent of that. So, there’s a complete lack of representation. So, as you said, you can’t talk to somebody who looks like you, who has experienced what you have, which is yet another barrier to seeking treatment for issues related to mental health. But you’re in 25 cities right now. And I know that the range of quality of mental health services range pretty widely from city to city. Are there times when your barbers do everything right. They recommend that people go get treatment, but the infrastructure just doesn’t exist in those cities to be able to provide the care that people need.
Yeah. And I believe a lot of that comes back to our policy and legislative support that’s taking place. We do have to do some major infrastructure work, policy changes in regards to Medicaid expansion and really looking at the prioritization of care and access across the board. We have an office in Atlanta and to the fact of how their laws and their policies are very, very complicated in some ways of access. And that’s everybody’s story in some ways. What we’re looking at is how do we provide their support? Therapy is not everybody’s answer. So everyone going to therapy is not a beautiful and ideal world. We have to reimagine how do we give people support through these factors and how do we provide what’s needed for communities, but also, how do we just build a culture of mental health? How do we build a culture of vulnerability and this becomes the new attraction, the new way of interacting with each other. And I think that’s where we’re going. We’re really talking about building a narrative, reducing stigma, and that hopefully helps to increase access. Because I believe the reality of it is, Brad, is telling people to go into therapy may not be the right thing all the time. But telling people that this is a culture and a community that encourages vulnerability, that’s something that we need to do across every community, because I don’t think that’s happening everywhere.
So well said that reducing stigma is such a huge piece of this. So maybe let’s stay there for a moment. I’m curious, what are things that you see when you start the training, when barbers are just starting to get exposed to some of these new ways of thinking. What are some of the mistakes they make in their communications? What are things that are helpful, that you’re able to see them in real time, so that you’re able to teach them a better way of having these conversations and listening actively?
I think a lot of it is that we give them very clear instructions and guides on how to do this. It’’s a learn, you know a learned thing of I’m not comfortable, something that they feel … most of it is they’re not comfortable. They don’t want to mess up, because most barbers who are in the helping profession of helping people look better by giving them a service, also want to empower their clientele. One because they don’t want to lose their clientele because that’s how they keep feed their families. Barbery is one of the first trades that African American men could get into. They talk about ownership and generational wealth. A lot of these men are very encouraged to do the right thing. I think a lot of it is their complexities. What we’ve done is we’ve broken down the barriers created in language tone. They look like me, right? A guy with a ball cap on and tennis shoes, not coming in with a white coat, and they can understand the tone that comes across. And it makes it much more easier for them to gravitate. Versus if I was someone who come from an Ivy League and coming in with a bunch of surveys, talking about mental health, that can be pretty daunting and, in some ways, offensive. I think a lot of this is a cultural shift and a lot of it is reimagining mental health. But bringing it to a level in cultural tone that they can understand as well.
One of the things I think about a lot is communicators can put together messages for any audience, whether it’s barbers or media or anybody else. But I think you put your finger on something that is so crucially important. And I think we’re seeing this when it comes to vaccine trust and vaccine hesitancy as well. It’s not just the message that you’re delivering and facts alone aren’t enough. It has to be the right messenger and using barbers as the vehicle of already having had established trust between customer and barber is such a brilliant way to make sure that the messenger is right. I want to ask you if you can think of a specific conversation, maybe a moment where you, as you were starting to develop this idea, thought, wow, that was deep. This idea is really going to take off. This really can work.
Brad, I had a guy from Tennessee, we went through a training and we trained about 30 guys in a barber college there in a part of Tennessee we’ve been to so many times. We’ve been to Memphis, but it was a part of Tennessee we went to, and there was a gentlemen there that went through our training again. A few weeks later, we left and we had an awesome training and he told us about a client who was struggling with suicidal ideation and thoughts of wanting to take his life by suicide. And he talked about how this training really helped him to listen, slow down, to really think, and it was just mind blowing. We actually were featured in Oprah magazine in a 2020 edition, we were featured as an Oprah health hero. I want to fast forward a few months ago, we were in Philadelphia at a barbershop on our Road to One Million Tour … and we were at a barbershop in Philadelphia. And there was a gentlemen, there was a similar situation. (He said) there was a client years ago that got into the barber chair and said, “Hey, this is my last haircut. And he said, well, what do you mean? He said, this is my last haircut. When I leave here, I’m going to die.” He said, the guy talked about walking out into the street and wanting to take his life. And that he was so nervous. He wouldn’t let the guy leave. And when he finally left, I think he stayed up all night and he checked on him. And, ultimately a few weeks later the guy was okay and went through a bad breakup. And he said he had no way of feeling like he could really help him. And he wished he had the skills that we had given him that would have may have subsided with some knowledge. And that’s two situations, right. A very beautiful situation, but then a situation that could have went totally, totally bad. And that allows me to know that what we do is so necessary. This is so needed on the front lines more than any day, because that gentleman had his mind made up that that was it. But on the other hand, we saw someone who used what we were able to do, and he was able to help a gentleman to not react to that issue. And so, I like to say both of those because they’re very beautifully encouraging, but it also allows us to know we have so much more work to do. And we want to amplify these trainings across many more cities so that so many people can do what the guy in Tennessee was able to do. And there are so many people, again, the guy in Philadelphia who may not have had what he was needed, but now he has what is needed. So if that happens again, he is encouraged to do and move forward.
When people have these conversations, and I’m hoping you can dispense some wisdom more broadly for anybody listening to this, I think so many times when somebody brings up a concern related to mental health, really anything, that maybe they’re feeling depressed, or they feel unusually sad or deeply anxious or whatever the terms are, they use to describe it, the person listening to them has a tendency to want to fix it. And to say something like ”Come on, your life is beautiful. You have so many things. Don’t forget all of these.” Or, maybe they’ll turn to faith. I’m curious what you think the best practices when somebody expresses a sense of dismay or vulnerability or depression, what are the right words?
The right words, there really is a need, Brad. I think the right thing to do is one to listen and do your best to be compassionate. Amd do your best to not overtalk that person. And I think a lot of it is because we’re so used to, as the human race, regardless of where we come from in any walk of life, we’re so used to solving someone’s problem. And it’s right now in the moment, and we talk about emotional mental health. It’s just like going to therapy. When you go to therapy, you sit down there on the couch, or you sit there and you sit across from your therapist and what do they do? They listen. They ask you questions and they listen. It’s your time to talk, to get all this stuff out. I think that we have to realize that we are all, our own many therapeutic people here in a world that can really practice that same component. But we don’t have to feel like we need to diagnose them. And we need to give them a recollection of this is what you’re dealing with. Do we even need to counsel them? Sometimes it’s just listening and it’s empowering them and that’s really goes a long way. And so if there’s someone critically that makes the statement, or you feel that they’re going to hurt themselves or hurt someone else that in fact, yes, there are, suicide prevention crisis, right? That there is now, 911 is an option as well, if you feel someone is threatening to hurt themselves. Those are options, but sometimes people just want to be heard, because in our society, and I’ve been to some of the busiest cities in America, we train barbers in New York and barbers in LA and barbers all across other coasts. And the one thing is that we’ve realized is that people don’t feel special and celebrated because the world is so busy and people are so consumed with self and so consumed within their own, whether it’s political ideations or whatever they may be, or their own interests, rather that we forget about serving and helping people. And I believe that’s what we do in our work is that we center those partners so that they learn how to center their clients in a way that allows them to be heard, seen, and celebrated. And that in itself unlocks a lot of opportunity. That won’t change someone’s mental health trajectory. In fact, what it does is really gain a trust and build a connectivity. And that helps to unlock the potential for that person to being their best self. And that’s what we ultimately want. And that’s what we help our barbers when understanding that you’re not going to be the one to solve this problem. But in fact, you can be a part of the solution in whichever way that this client be able to go. And, you know, that they’ll always come and confide in you. And that’s a powerful thing because if one person knows that they can trust you, that’s one less person that may not want to hurt themselves. We always got to think of it in the now. So that’s why we center our barbers. They are part of that outcome. I think that’s what it allows. Not only what we do, but it also allows people to reimagine outside of the barbershop. What if we have multiple outlets, what if we have multiple people that can do the same thing? That’s when it becomes a ripple effect.
Lorenzo, how can listeners support your work?
Feel free to support our work, you know, email@example.com. Right now, we are on our “Road to One Million” campaign in partnership with our presenting sponsor Gillette and Andis, as well as Toyota and Snapchat. Our goal is to train 1,000 barbers this year to be mental health advocates for their communities and to reach a million people through the barber chair by the end of December 2021. So, we’re super excited for this opportunity. Last year, we reached, during 2020, 240,000 individuals through the barber chair. On average, barbers are reaching about a hundred people a month, existing and new clients. With our new training formula, they can impact up to a million people this year, by trying to train 1,000 barbers. Also, supporting their work throughout social media channels, the confess project. Follow us at our website, feel free to join our newsletter to stay in contact with the Road to One Million and how we’re going to continue to make a change across the United States.
I cannot tell you how much I admire you and the work that you’re doing and the public good you are doing in helping people remove masks that life or culture or other pressures have encouraged them to put on and giving them the confidence to strip them off and be real and be safe when they are, is a tremendous gift. So I wish you and The Confess Project great things. I hope that many of our listeners will have your back. That’s Lorenzo Lewis, the CEO and founder of The Confess Project.
Absolutely. Thanks again, Brad.Back to All Episodes
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