Celebrating World Mental Health Day- How This Nonprofit is collaborating with Barbers to lead America’s First Mental Health Movement

INTERVIEW The Confess Project

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2018, the rate of death from suicide for African American males was four times more than that for African American females. Further in 2019, it was reported that suicide was the second highest cause of deaths among African-Americans aged 15-24.

To celebrate World Mental Health Day, we spoke to Dimika Nelson from The Confess Project to learn about the first American mental health movement in coalition with the barbershops.

Can you tell us a little bit about your nonprofit ?

ADimika : The Confess Project is our flagship initiative where we train barbers to be mental health advocates within the barber shop and out in their community. Our target population is people of color. More specifically, black boys, men and their families.

What motivated you to work for mental health?

ADimika : Being a black woman raised in a single parent household from the United States, I definitely experienced my share of unique life experiences, most were traumatic. And a lot of the work that we do and the reason why we do this work is based on trauma. Trauma affects us as children and if we’re not able to receive the appropriate mental health support people, we actually carry that trauma into adulthood and that is where a mental health illness arises.

Could you please tell us more about mental health?

ADimika : Mental health comprises of your emotional, psychological and social well-being. It essentially affects how you think, feel your behaviour, your mood. How you handle and cope and respond to stress. It also affects how you socialize and relate to others.

What are the issues that your target population is dealing with and how is your nonprofit helping them?

ADimika:  One in five adults in the US experience a mental health condition with the most common conditions being depression and substance-abuse disorder. So, The Confess Project is training barbers in the barber shops to be mental health advocates. We’re utilizing barbers to do something that they’re already doing. They’re forming relationships with the community. We’re just training them to be more intentional to bring awareness to mental health. And we do this by training our barbers on four points. Those four points are active listening, positive communication, validation, and reducing mental health stigma.

Was there any specific pattern that you noticed during covid among persons with mental health issues seeking professional help?

ADimika: Although I don’t have the exact numbers, there was definitely a surge in mental health concerns for communities of color, but there was not a surge in those persons seeking professional help. Which is why the confess project really exists to act as a segue between providers in the community. As we engage with our community and help them find resources so we stand in the middle as a segue to connect the community with providers. So that’s really the most important part of our work is to make a proper mental health referral.

What are some things you wish people knew about mental health?

ADimika: People usually think there’s no hope for people with mental illness. There’s definitely hope, what we’re doing at The Confess Project is innovative, it’s unconventional. But we provide that hope, or at a baseline level, to the point where our community is becoming more aware of their wellness, and we’re right there to connect them with the proper resources. So community support is definitely out there, such as ours, and I’m really excited that there is actually an increase in awareness of mental health conditions. Another myth I’d like to bust right now is that mental illness can’t affect me or you. Mental illness does not discriminate, they can literally affect anyone. I’ll give you one more. Something that I hear quite often is that mental illness is caused by personal weakness. It is not caused by a personal weakness, there’s definitely a combination of environmental and biological factors there.

What are some ways volunteers can contribute to The Confess Project?

ADimika : Definitely a good resource I’d like to give out is from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. They have a helpline if you’re looking for more resources or more information, please reach out to them. That number is 1-800-950-6264. If you’re looking to join our calls we’re definitely on the road to training 1000 barbers by the end of the year so we’re actually halfway to that goal. But we’re always recruiting more looking to recruit more barbers looking to partner with more like minded agencies with similar, similar missions as ours, you can definitely find more information on our website at www.confess And also, you can give us a call at our 800 number. It’s 1-800-804-4057.

Any message that you’d like to leave for potential volunteers?

ADimika: What I’d like to say is just think outside the box and stay there. There’s new research that bolsters these communities, types of community support are necessary to really connect. Especially due to COVID-19, to really have people on the ground, like we are, is definitely proven beneficial to communities of color.

Learn how you can raise your voice and make an effect with Goodera

We have numerous volunteer activities planned at the Goodera to engage volunteers around the subject of World Mental Health Day. This topic asks us to be more sensitive, compassionate and inclusive towards those who are dealing with mental health issues. You can help The Confess Project by participating via Goodera’s virtual volunteering experience. The experience is powerful and engaging, making it an excellent choice for getting you started on your virtual volunteering adventure.

Interested? Reach out to us here.

Are you a nonprofit looking for volunteers? We can help! Talk to us.

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