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'It could save people' - barber encourages men to talk about mental health

PUBLISHED: 17:53 10 November 2019 | UPDATED: 18:15 10 November 2019

Simon Buller, owner of Courage & Noble. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Simon Buller, owner of Courage & Noble. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

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A barber shop in Norwich has opened up as a "safe space" for men to talk about their mental health free from prejudice.

Norwich barbershop Courage & Noble has started a mental health club to encourage their clients to talk about their mental health. Picture: Victoria PertusaNorwich barbershop Courage & Noble has started a mental health club to encourage their clients to talk about their mental health. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

Courage and Noble, on King Street, has become the city's first Talk Club - a forum for men to share their issues and allow them room to talk.

Simon Buller set up the club four months ago and says while it is not a replacement for professional therapy, the response has been overwhelming.

"The first time it felt like a bit of a confessional," he said. "It is a really broad spectrum of people with different ages and careers. One person who came who I have known for about five years really took me aback with his story. I had no idea what he had been through."

Mr Buller said he started the club after his own struggles with depression, and after seeing customers come into the shop and share their feelings for the first time.

Norwich barbershop Courage & Noble has started a mental health club to encourage their clients to talk about their mental health. Picture: Victoria PertusaNorwich barbershop Courage & Noble has started a mental health club to encourage their clients to talk about their mental health. Picture: Victoria Pertusa

"We are really privileged because we are privy to a lot of things people say and want to get off their chest," he said.

"It sometimes feels like a safe place where people can come and it's completely free and there is no pressure.

"Working in barbering I have witnessed first hand men who feel like they can't talk to anyone. We are sometimes that first port of call.

"We have been privy to conversations before they haven't even told their families."

He said when he launched the first Talk Club four months ago he "couldn't believe the response".

"I just think it could save people," he said.

"We are not there as a substitute for therapy. We are just there as an open door to talk about whatever you like. What we are very keen on promoting is if there is something that could affect someone in a monumental way we would encourage them to seek professional help."

After sessions the groups stay connected on a WhatsApp group, but numbers are kept small so people feel able to open up.

"There is no pressure to talk so the title can be a little misleading," Mr Buller added. "It is a really fantastic movement and there is nothing to gain except helping each other.

"For me I have struggled with depression my whole life and I have dealt with it through counselling. I am fortunate enough that I could do that, but the last time I wanted to go to the doctor it was a 16 week wait. It is absurd that the funding isn't there.

"There is still a real problem with this view of toxic masculinity and that you are not a strong man if you have these issues. The men I have met couldn't be any stronger with the things they have been through. It is extraordinary to think by just talking about it shows weakness.

"My wife and her friends are discussing these things openly and without prejudice. I just don't think men are there yet."

Ben Akers, the founder of Talk Club, will be in Norwich this week screening a new documentary aimed at raising awareness of and tackling male suicide, called 'Steve'.

Tagged 'A documentary to help men battle depression', it will be screened at Brewdog on Queen Street on Monday evening.

For more information and tickets visit Eventbrite.

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