The north Belfast-based Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm (Pips) has come up with a new scheme to recruit hairdressers and barbers to help spot vulnerable people who might be contemplating taking their own lives.
At a salon there is often intimate contact between worker and client. People are very open at the hairdressers. Even though they may see the same hairdresser every month or so, they still have a certain air of anonymity and therefore feel more secure about not being judged. When people sit down in the chair to have their hair cut they seem to open up about things they might feel uncomfortable speaking about to those they know. Philip McTaggart, pips founder and chairperson, said “They will open up to a stranger who is standing over them cutting their hair. So we went around various salons and asked staff about what sort of problems in their lives their customers talked about. What the staff told us was quite shocking.”
The organization is holding a specialist training programme on 27 September for hair salon staff and barbers after a dramatic rise in suicides in Belfast over the past decade. The scheme intends to help participant’s spot vulnerable clients so they can then suggest counselling and pass on cards and leaflets from organizations that might help. “The whole scheme is discreet. The leaflets are not spread about the salons like copies of Vogue or Cosmopolitan. If the scheme saves one life, it will be worth it,” said McTaggart.
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