The Duke of Cambridge spent Thursday visiting some charities that focus on men’s mental health and their well-being. Prince William’s first stop was a barber shop in Paddington, London, called Pall Mall Barbers, before heading to a ‘Future Dads’ session.
The Pall Mall Barbers are part of an international group called the Lions Barber Collective, which raises awareness for suicide prevention – the biggest killer of men under 40. The group provides training for barbers, so that they will be able to recognise the signs of depression and other mental illnesses in their clients, and embolden them with the courage to seek help for their issues.
Arriving outside the barber’s, crowds had gathered and the Royal joked: “Are you all coming for a haircut?”
The Lions Barber Collective has a new initiative, called Barbers Talk; it is based on the notion that men tend to feel more comfortable and therefore are more likely to open up to someone when they are sitting in a barber’s chair. In turn, a barber who has been taught to recognise the signs of different mental illnesses – especially depression – is then able to lend a sympathetic, as well as an educated ear, to offer advice and encourage the clients to seek professional help.
The Lions Barber Collective was founded by Tom Chapman in 2014. The idea to start this programme stemmed from Tom losing his close friend by suicide, and deciding that he would like to use his skills as a barber to help raise awareness and support for mental health.
Prince William sat down in a barber’s chair to speak with those who attend the barbers, as well as the staff who are trained in the mental health support. He joked of his own loss of hair: “I don’t need a haircut anymore, I just take a razor to it!”
One member of the team lost his father to suicide at the age of 15. Ken, now 28, told the Duke about his situation: “I was 15, I remember it all.”
William said: “This is very interesting. I’m trying to work out how you go about the issue of male suicide. People tell me that suicide is the rawest form of grief, there are so many questions unanswered that it is very hard to believe that anyone can get through it.
“Did you find that talking helped? I’m trying to work out from my side how to frame the whole question of male mental health and suicide.”
Ken replied: “I think the only way is to be direct. It took me a long time to talk about it but when I did, I couldn’t stop.”
Other stories the Prince heard included one man, Paul, who had attempted to take his own life three times in the last 12 months. Talking to his walking group helped him realise he could overcome his depression.
Speaking of The Duke of Cambridge’s visit, manager Tom shared: “It’s something that he’s passionate about and wants to drive forward with. He realises that we are at the tip of the iceberg with mental health.
“Although it’s come a long way in the last five to ten years, we have a long way to go. But we’re heading in the right direction.”
He added: “He’s genuinely interested in everyone’s story and spent a lot of time talking to the guys. He was talking about the relationships between fathers and sons in general and the importance of himself and us passing it on to the next generation.
“He said he’s come across guys who don’t want to talk professionally but when you get a group of men together, people are far more comfortable talking.”
Managing director of Pall Mall Barbers, Richard Marshall, spoke after the royal visit: “We need a big push to raise more awareness for men’s mental health. Men don’t speak about their feelings or what is going on inside their head, and so raising awareness and encouraging guys to speak to each other is really important.
“Prince William is a total gentleman and was a lot of fun. He really got into the spirit of the moment.”
The Duke of Cambridge’s next stop was at the Abbey Centre in London, to partake in a session for young dads called “Future Dads”. This informative discussion is run by the charity Future Men and its intention is to help prepare men, particularly young ones, for fatherhood.
It is hoped that by providing practical guidance, support and advice, the fathers will develop confidence in their skills as a parent, which in turn will help to develop a stronger family foundation and bond. The main emphasis of the day’s discussion was mental health while transitioning into fatherhood. The charity holds sessions in numerous locations throughout London.
William was greeted by the CEO of the charity, Christopher Muwanguzi, and introduced to the fathers and some of their children taking part in the session.
Prince William shared his extensive knowledge about all of the ways that life changes once new parents bring their babies home. He was extremely open and honest about his own experiences. His children – George, Charlotte and Louis – are now 5 years old, 3 and 18 months. While addressing the group, the future King said: “Once the lack of sleep starts setting in, the stress levels go up.
“From a young age, you’re taught to have a vision, have a plan, have a career and all of a sudden babies come along and you have to start thinking about a lot more… It’s such a change, your whole life goes one way and suddenly you’re told to stop in your tracks.”
Additionally, the Duke shared with the group: “Taking care of a baby is a massive responsibility, and their utter vulnerability can be overwhelming. They are so fragile and everything’s so tiny, their little fingers and toes, you do feel like if you move them around too much they’re going to break almost, but they don’t.
“The fear of having a newborn baby that’s very vulnerable and that’s what you spend most of your time worrying about, thinking what do I do? And that’s the thing isn’t it, it’s very daunting of how tiny they are when they first arrive.”
All of the men gathered were able to pick up many helpful tips from the Duke of Cambridge’s wealth of knowledge regarding changing nappies.
While chatting with some of the father’s at a doll changing station, William rolled up his sleeves and handed out advice on the difficulties when changing a baby’s nappy. “It’s never straightforward!” William shared.
His comments come just a day after The Duchess of Cambridge spoke of her naivety as a new parent at a children’s mental health conference.
William added that when dressing the baby, ‘the hardest bit is the buttons.’
The Prince was extremely eager to learn from the men in the group, what they went through while transitioning into fatherhood, and how they reacted once fatherhood became a reality. All in all, there was quite the exchange of information coming from all sides at the Centre. It goes to show that no matter what one’s background is, we all share the same fears and insecurities when facing the prospect of becoming a parent.