Suicide prevention charity Samaritans is calling on hairdressers and barbers across the UK to help let people know that listening saves lives.
There are 160,000 hairdressers and barbers in the UK, making up 1% of the workforce. It’s estimated that they each spend nearly 2,000 hours a year listening to their clients.
By highlighting hairdressers’ listening expertise, Samaritans is illustrating the value of us all becoming better listeners as part of its latest campaign The Big Listen, which kicks off on Monday 24 July.
Throughout the day, Samaritans is asking each of us to build up our listening skills by using its SHUSH! Listening Tips to help a friend, relative or family member who may be going through a tough time.
The tips include advice on how to show you care plus ways of encouraging dialogue, such as through the use of open questions.
Commenting on the initiative, hairdresser and ‘Gogglebox’ star Stephen Webb said: “As a hairdresser, over time you realise that the person sitting in front of you could be in real need of a chat.
“A massive part of my job is to simply listen and as a hairdresser, we take our role as listeners very seriously. You go through so many things with your clients: deaths, births and marriages. And you’re there for each other every step of the way.”
Mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin added: “We could all benefit from becoming better listeners, which is why I am supporting Samaritans Talk to Us/The Big Listen. The fact that Neil listened to me and stopped me from taking my life that day in London all those years ago, shows what a powerful skill it is.”
Neil Laybourn, who campaigns jointly with Benjamin, said: “The more we really listen to each other, the more we empathise, which could go a long way to making us a kinder and more inclusive society.”
Samaritans has teamed up with the Lions Barber Collective for the campaign, which raises awareness of suicide prevention and trains barbers to listen to their clients in a bid to reduce the high suicide rate among men.
Founder Tom Chapman appeared at King’s Cross station on Monday morning alongside Benjamin and Laybourn to raise awareness of the initiative.
Using the SHUSH listening tips, Samaritans is hoping to make the UK a nation of better listeners and to emphasise the value of talking through problems if people are struggling.
Hairdresser Vikki Craig, who is 45 and from Falkirk, became a Samaritans volunteer after honing her listening skills in her salon.
“What I loved most about it was being able to really listen to clients. People would talk to me about things they felt they could never tell their own friends and family. I felt humbled and honoured to be there for my clients in that way,” she said.
“Becoming a Samaritans listening volunteer was an easy fit for me and it’s such an important part of my life now. The value of listening is incredible and I would encourage everyone to explore Samaritans’ SHUSH Listening Tips and look at mastering their listening skills to become better listeners for friends and family.”
Samaritans’ CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Three times more people die by suicide than from road accidents. Samaritans volunteers are trained to be good listeners, but this is a skill we can all learn.
“Many hairdressers are naturally good listeners and many more people can learn those skills too. We’re grateful to the Lions Barber Collective and hairdressers across the UK who are working with us and our volunteers to help get that message out there. Together we will save lives.”
You can find out more about The Big Listen and Samaritans’ SHUSH! Listening Tips at www.samaritans.org or on Facebook. You can also follow the activity by following @samaritans on Twitter, using the hashtag #TheBigListen.