Barber seeks to use Louisville barbershops to start mental health conversations

The Confess Project is a movement that takes the haven of conversation in barbershops, and arms barbers with the tools to start the dialogue about addressing mental health.One local barber in Louisville is hoping to change the narrative of mental health for Black men and their families . Getting through the spinning conundrum of the mind is a daily mental battle for most Black men and boys. “The barbershop has always been the hub for galvanization,” said J. “Divine” Alexander, a barber with The Confess Project.The barbershop is one of the places where conversation and expression are at the heart of every cut. “It’s a space where Black men and boys go to, and often time it’s a space where we’re able to vent and be our real selves, our true selves, during those conversations, “Alexander said.May it be mental health struggles with the ongoing pandemic, relationships, financial strife or just mere existence in society.Whatever it is, J. Alexander is there to unlock the mind. “Us as barbers, we practice active listening, validation and stigma reduction,” Alexander said. “So, that’s how we go about doing the work. So, we listen to any of the issues that they may have or whatever they are going through, and they may not be going through anything.” These are the core principles of The Confess Project .Now based in Atlanta, it is a national movement to arm barbers with clippers and conversation, to start the dialogue about mental health.For Alexander, every person who sits in his chair is more than just a client. “Because I kind of like it as an experience more so than calling them my clients per se,” he said. “We have experiences when we talk, and they’re sitting in the chair, and I cut hair. It’s a whole experience, man.” It’s an experience of shared struggles that makes a better man. With suicide, violence and recidivism numbers among Black men on the rise, Alexander is on a mission to prove it all starts with validation. “A lot of people, Black boys and men, do not think there is any hope out there,” he said. “So, you got to have certain people that have things going on to provide hope and not just going on but somebody who is there to listen and help validate what their issues may be, and that’s what we at The Confess Project strive to do. “That is pursuit of providing hope helped land Alexander an appointment to the Kentucky Board of Barbers by Gov. Andy Beshear.It is an honor he does not take lightly as he hopes to implement mental health into the training of fellow and future barbers across the Commonwealth. “So, they can have some sort of understanding and training of mental health when they see clients and know how to deal with it,” Alexander said.With every cut, another mind and soul is saved, just a little validation and uplift we could all use from time to time, no matter where we are in society. “The intelligent, the downtrodden, the wayward, the intellectuals, Black men… we all need love,” Alexander said.The Confess Project started in 2016 in Little Rock, Arkansas.It has now spread to cities across the country and was recognized in 2019 by the American Psychiatric Association as a pioneer for advancing minority mental health.

The Confess Project is a movement that takes the haven of conversation in barbershops, and arms barbers with the tools to start the dialogue about addressing mental health.

One local barber in Louisville is hoping to change the narrative of mental health for Black men and their families.

Getting through the spinning conundrum of the mind is a daily mental battle for most Black men and boys.

“The barbershop has always been the hub for galvanization,” said J. “Divine” Alexander, a barber with The Confess Project.

The barbershop is one of the places where conversation and expression are at the heart of every cut.

“It’s a space where Black men and boys go to, and often time it’s a space where we’re able to vent and be our real selves, our true selves, during those conversations,” Alexander said.

May it be mental health struggles with the ongoing pandemic, relationships, financial strife or just mere existence in society.

Whatever it is, J. Alexander is there to unlock the mind.

“Us as barbers, we practice active listening, validation and stigma reduction,” Alexander said. “So, that’s how we go about doing the work. So, we listen to any of the issues that they may have or whatever they are going through, and they may not be going through anything.”

These are the core principles of The Confess Project.

Now based in Atlanta, it is a national movement to arm barbers with clippers and conversation, to start the dialogue about mental health.

For Alexander, every person who sits in his chair is more than just a client.

“Because I kind of like it as an experience more so than calling them my clients per se,” he said. “We have experiences when we talk, and they’re sitting in the chair, and I cut hair. It’s a whole experience, man.”

It’s an experience of shared struggles that makes a better man.

With suicide, violence and recidivism numbers among Black men on the rise, Alexander is on a mission to prove it all starts with validation.

“A lot of people, Black boys and men, do not think there is any hope out there,” he said. “So, you got to have certain people that have things going on to provide hope and not just going on but somebody who is there to listen and help validate what their issues may be, and that’s what we at The Confess Project strive to do. “

That is pursuit of providing hope helped land Alexander an appointment to the Kentucky Board of Barbers by Gov. Andy Beshear.

It is an honor he does not take lightly as he hopes to implement mental health into the training of fellow and future barbers across the Commonwealth.

“So, they can have some sort of understanding and training of mental health when they see clients and know how to deal with it,” Alexander said.

With every cut, another mind and soul is saved, just a little validation and uplift we could all use from time to time, no matter where we are in society.

“The intelligent, the downtrodden, the wayward, the intellectuals, Black men… we all need love,” Alexander said.

The Confess Project started in 2016 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

It has now spread to cities across the country and was recognized in 2019 by the American Psychiatric Association as a pioneer for advancing minority mental health.

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