Why barbers really mean it when they ask how you are.

Keeping the conversation open if a man wants to talk is part of the 12th man training. Picture Getty

Keeping the conversation open if a man wants to talk is part of the 12th man training. Picture Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A project training barbers how to listen if clients want to talk about mental health is expanding.

Nick Little, Director and fellow co-founder of The 12th Man, speaking at the celebration of the life

Nick Little, Director and fellow co-founder of The 12th Man, speaking at the celebration of the life of Oz Osborne, fellow director and co-foundert. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

'Don't worry about it mate' 'Man up'

'Cheer up'

'It's all in your head'

'You just need to get out more'

Learning what to say, and what not to say, is part of the 12th man training about men's mental healt

Learning what to say, and what not to say, is part of the 12th man training about men's mental health. Picture Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto


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All easy to say to someone who's feeling down, depressed or simply incredibly fed up…but not exactly helpful.

But what can you say?

Men may be prepared to talk to their barber about how they're feeling. Picture Getty Images

Men may be prepared to talk to their barber about how they're feeling. Picture Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A growing group of men in Norwich know, and the message about the right words is spreading.

Thanks to training from the Outsiders, a Norfolk-based project encouraging social contact and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, a group of Norwich barbers have been trained how to genuinely be good friends and support customers who may be struggling.

The Outsiders 12th Man campaign works to help men talk openly about mental health. It's named after the '12th man' – a football team's fans who lift the team when they need support.

'There is unconditional support from the football crowd. If your team plays badly you are still back there the next week,' says Nick Little, director of The Outsiders

'You feel you have a responsibility to support the team,' he said, and people can be the 12th man for other men whether they're going through good times or bad.

The aim is now is to train other people who men may confide in, such as bar staff, tattoo artists and doormen, so they know how to respond if a man tells them they're not feeling great.

Nick said it was tricky to get most men to talk about their feelings.

'Men quite a lot of the time cannot even recognise and process their emotions,' he said, adding that it was important to find a situation where men would talk.

So The Outsiders 12th Man project has trained barbers, where men come to relax, how to listen and respond to men who open up.

'It's about empathy, about encouraging them to talk more about the situation,' said Nick, explaining that the training taught the barbers how to spot signs people may be struggling, and gave them useful conversation tools to be a useful 12th man.

Barbers and other workplaces interested in 12th man training can visit 12th-man.org.uk

Read how ex Norwich City footballer Darren Eadie learnt to deal with his mental health struggles in the new Norfolk County Council Menkind campaign at www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/mens-health-menkind's

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