A team of barbers have been trained on how to have open conversations with their clients about their mental health.

The scheme, BarberTalk Live, was delivered in Havering to equip barbers with the tools and knowledge needed to direct clients towards mental health support.

Havering Council said that in England and Wales, suicide remains the leading cause of death among men under 50.

BarberTalk Live is led by the Lions Barber Collective, a group advocating for men’s mental health and suicide prevention.

This course is designed and run by barbers, offering a tailored approach to mental health discussions within the barbering profession.

Founder of BarberTalk, Tom Chapman, established the project after losing a close friend to suicide.

Since its start in 2015, the BarberTalk programme has trained barbers throughout the UK, recognising them as champions of men's mental health.

The programme provides education on identifying symptoms of mental ill health and directing men to relevant local support services.

Among those to take part in the training was Charlie Barrett, owner of Ladies & Gentlemen in Harold Wood.

He said: "I really enjoyed the training.

"To be able to recognise changes in not only clients but also family and friends has become a valuable life skill that in this day and age is vital.

"If clients reach out to me with issues, I can point them in a direction that will help them get the support they need."

Elaine Greenway, Havering’s assistant director of public health, said: "The training provided by BarberTalk helps to breakdown the stigma that can be associated with mental ill health among men.

"We are grateful to the local NHS for sponsoring the training, and appreciate all the barbers who gave up their time to attend the training session to help support their clients, families, and communities."

The training covered recognising mental health issues among clients, asking direct questions about their emotional wellbeing, and guiding them towards appropriate services.

Barbers who took part in the training will now display a sign in their shops so that clients know they can get support.

When life is difficult, the Samaritans is available 365 days, 24/7. Call for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org.