Ipswich barber wins award for work with men's mental health
- Credit: Archant
An Ipswich-based businessman has been recognised with a prestigious award for his unique style of barbering.
Ken Hermes, 31, won the Modern Barber Community Hero Award for his combining of cutting hair and providing mental health support.
Having lost his father to suicide at the age of 15, Ken has been keen to provide support for those who need it most.
The freelance barber said: "After I lost my dad, I didn't feel like I was able to talk about it.
"But one day I decided to just share my story on a video blog.
"It got amazing feedback with a lot of people telling me how much it had helped them.
"I thought to myself, if just talking about my own experience can help, how helpful would listening be?"
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Ken, who lives in Halstead but works primarily in Ipswich, took a number of mental health courses while a young barber and eventually began to encourage his customers to talk.
He said: "Stereotypically, men don't talk. That's why the suicide rate in men is so high.
"I wanted to be a place to encourage them to open up and speak about their wellbeing.
"I won't offer advice if I'm not educated enough on the topic. Sometimes that can be really harmful.
"I'll always go away and make sure I do my research before doing that."
Knowing the difficulties of getting his customers to open up, Ken will always wait for them to feel comfortable enough to do so.
"I often find people open up more when I show my own vulnerability.
"It's all about building trust.
"It's just me letting people know they can always come for an informal chat and a haircut, and then maybe we can start to guide them on the right path.
"I'm in touch with a lot of charities and organisations that can help, so sometimes I'll point them in those directions."
On Sunday, he was rewarded for his work with the Modern Barber Community Hero Award.
The 31-year-old said: "Modern Barber is one of the largest industry magazines so just to be shortlisted meant so much.
"I was up against so many amazing people so I really wasn't expecting it.
"Receiving recognition from my industry peers and industry leaders lets me know I'm doing the right thing.
Looking ahead, Ken now looks to grow both his business and his not-for-profit organisation, The Hermes Project CIC - established to provide support for those bereaved by parental suicide and to encourage men to talk about their mental health.
"At the end of the day, being a barber is all about being part of the community and being a safe space", he said.
"To know I'm making a difference is rewarding enough for me."