Some men avoid visiting their GP to talk about their health worries because they don’t think it’s a masculine thing to do – they should ‘man up’ instead.
It’s a problem recognised by Doncaster businessman Jimmy Herrington, who believes he’s got the ideal non-medical place to encourage local men to talk about health matters – in the comfortable surroundings of his traditional barber’s shop.
I met Jimmy a few weeks ago when he and colleague Luke Kain brought one of their barber’s chairs to a Public Health sponsored five-a-side football competition held to raise awareness of the importance of mental health. They provided free haircuts in return for donations to charity.
Self-styled Jimmy, 30, owns Bawtry-based Gentleman’s Retreat, with its fascinating vintage-themed decor inspired by the gentlemen’s clubs of yesteryear. It’s a cut above the rest as it also boasts a bar on the ground floor that’s entered – James Bond style – through a bookcase doubling up as a door.
Upstairs, the ‘officers’ mess’ coffee lounge, with comfortable leather settees, sits adjacent to the Union Flag decorated room where his team offer a range of barbering and shaving services
Jimmy suffers from fibromyalgia, a chronic painful condition that put paid to his barber career, so he now concentrates on the management of the business. He’s also new product development manager for a Balby-based company producing men’s grooming products sold in over 150 countries.
Jimmy started out in hairdressing aged 16 and says men tend to be ‘brand loyal’ to a place they like, and keep coming back. You get to know them personally, you build up trust and, as time goes on, you can tell when they are feeling low, for example.
He says barbering involves a lot of lads’ banter. But there’s also the personal element that sticks with him, as men often feel more secure in what’s a predominantly male environment, though he does have a female member of staff and women are very welcome.
It was this experience that prompted him to look at ways of learning more about health matters and local services, so he and his staff can signpost customers to appropriate help if they need it. After making contact with Doncaster Council’s Public Health team, two have been on the safeTalk suicide prevention course, equipping them with the skills to be suicide alert helpers.
His next plans are to have health-themed open nights where men can come along and have a chat and refreshments in a safe and friendly environment.
I welcome initiatives like this that get men talking openly about their health, so well done Jimmy and colleagues.