“I lost my father to suicide; now I help others”

Ken Hermes works for the Lions Barber Collective, an international group of barbers who raise awareness about preventing suicide

“I’m what they call a survivor of suicide, which is a strange thing to call it. Suicide. It’s a horrible word. It sends shivers down your spine and brings up barriers in most people. Statistics show that somebody takes their life every 120 minutes in the UK. A staggering 80 per cent of cases are men.

I lost my dad to suicide when I was 15. There was no note, no warning. One day I woke up and he wasn’t there any more. It hit me really hard. My dad and I were best friends: we were so close. The night before he died we had a normal night. We were smoking and drinking, I was playing his favourite songs on my guitar, we talked about everything. It felt that night like he was really wearing his heart on his sleeve, but he didn’t tell me how depressed he was feeling. I had no idea. I didn’t even know my dad took antidepressants. I was only young: he was probably trying to protect me.

I felt that I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through

As time passed, I felt that I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through any more: they had grown tired of hearing it. Kids at school blocked me out. There was clearly a big taboo around the subject. I don’t think my dad had anyone to speak to in that respect either. Maybe it was a pride thing. His pride may have cost him his life.

I haven’t felt able to speak out until now. When I heard that barbers were raising awareness of suicide, I knew I had to get involved. I was asked to film a short video blog explaining my loss and why I – a non-barber – was getting in with a group of barbers. It had 14,000 views in seven days.

It proved to me that speaking out not only helped me, but could help others who have lost, or are going through depression themselves.

Men will speak to their barbers about things they wouldn’t tell anybody else

The truth is that men will speak to their barbers about things they wouldn’t tell anybody else. The #BarberTalk programme teaches barbers how to recognise, talk to, listen to, and advise their clients. With this comes the responsibility to remain confidential, provide a safe haven for clients, and offer help where necessary.

Talking about suicide does not make it more likely to happen. By breaking the taboo, we could save a life.”

This article was originally published by Being ManKind 
Image: Priya Dabasia for Being ManKind

Read our feature Rewriting the Man Code: the new masculinity


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