The barbershop is a special place. Not only can you get a shave and a haircut, but you can also make friends, watch the game, and participate in lively discussions on politics, sports, popular culture, and relationships. During one visit to the barbershop, I discovered that it could be much more than a social hub. It can be life-saving.
While waiting on my barber, I noticed a man talking to another barber a few chairs down. After a few minutes of quiet conversation, the man raised his voice for everyone to hear.
“I want to thank Shawn for saving my life,” he proclaimed. All of the other patrons stopped what they were doing and turned towards the man. “If not for him, I would be dead right now.”
He went on to explain that he was dealing with some serious emotional issues in his life – job loss, a broken relationship, financial trouble – and was at his wit’s end. As he sat alone in his house with a loaded gun in his hand, he felt compelled to call the barbershop.
The phone rang a few times before Shawn answered.
“May I speak to Karl?” The man asked. Karl is a deacon at his church and everyone at the shop knows that he is a good listener and a wise counselor.
“Karl isn’t here,” Shawn said. “May I help you with something?” The man sat quietly and fondled the gun. After a few seconds, he finally answered.
“I really need to talk to Karl,” he said. “I’m in bad shape right now.” Realizing he had to do something, Shawn engaged the man and kept him talking. They talked for nearly two hours and Shawn was able to give the man some encouragement. Because of Shawn’s compassion, the man put away the gun and stopped thinking suicidal thoughts.
“I’m glad Shawn answered the phone that day,” the man continued. “If any of the other barbers had answered, I’m sure they would have told me to ‘Man up!’ And that’s not what I needed to hear that day.”
“I just did what I knew was right at the moment,” said Shawn. “We all need someone to listen to us every now and then.”
The man gave Shawn a strong embrace and thanked him again.
I applaud Shawn’s willingness to help during a crisis, but he is not a trained counselor. Too many men are reluctant to seek professional counseling because they see it as a sign of weakness (please read “The Truth About Depression in Black Men“). There was a point in my life when I felt the same way. It wasn’t until I had a major problem in my marriage that I was forced to see a counselor. I quickly discovered that many of my marital problems stemmed from unresolved personal issues. I was able to openly discuss these issues for the first time and free myself of the guilt and anger.
I recommend that all men seek a counselor if you are dealing with depression, addiction, or any other mental health issue. If you still refuse to see a counselor, I hope your barbershop has someone who is as compassionate as Shawn. He just may save your life.
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P.S. – If you need immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.