Local barber school adds mental health course to its curriculum

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Detecting critical mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and psychosis is now part of the course curriculum at a barber school in Charlotte for the very first time.

Critical lessons are now delivered to students on the career path of becoming barbers and hairstylists.

Damien Johnson owns and operates Charlotte's No Grease Barber School and knows firsthand how mental illness has impacted his clients.

"In a first interaction with a client we can learn everything from when they were born to their first job, their first child. Their divorce," Johnson said. "We've had clients leave the chair and commit murder."

Beyond the barber chairs, students here are introduced to detectable warning signs, while giving a trim or a shave.

Shelia Wright is one the driving forces behind of what's being billed here as Atrium Health's Mental Health First Aid.

She says students have a detailed check list.

"What are the signs and symptoms, risk factors, and now how do you take this action plan and apply it to someone who might be depressed," Wright said.

The lessons were carried out in Deanna Love's classroom at the school.

She's says clients who show up are more likely to open their emotions.

Love said, "As a hair stylist we're psychiatrists, and again I know more probably about some of my clients than their husbands or wives do."

That kind of relationship makes it easier for those behind the chair to hand out personal referrals.

"Now that we've been equipped with the right information, and the right resources, we can point people in the right direction," Johnson said.

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