Southeast Queens leader launches barber shop-based mental health initiative

Barber Shop
Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson is launching a barber shop-based mental health initiative in Southeast Queens. (File/Paul Frangipane)

Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson is collaborating with the Arthur Ashe Institute of Urban Health to launch a new Barber Shop Mental Health Program that aims to understand and support the experience of working-class families of southeast Queens impacted by structural violence and institutional racism by addressing their mental health and well-being.

The program, entitled “Barber Shop Talk: Beyond the Stigma,” partners with local barber shops to provide the necessary information, tools, education training and resources that will help build the capacity of barbers and community members to safely and proactively address and support the mental health and well-being of their communities.

Researchers have identified several key factors as being responsible for the emergence of the barbershop as the epicenter of African American mental health discourse. These factors include historical and cultural mistrust of health care professionals among the African American community and the low number of mental health professionals of color. Specifically, help-seeking behavior among African Americans has been conditioned by a distrust of formal health institutions and a leaning toward faith-based interventions, according to the American Counseling Association.

“Mental health is heavily stigmatized in communities of color and among men,” Anderson said. “As a response to structural violence and intergenerational trauma, this game-changing new Barber Shop Mental Health & Wellness Program will notably help men of color who not only patronize barber shops, but rely on them for safe, non-judgemental and culturally-responsive socio-economic support.”

The first “Barber Shop Talk” will take place at Platinum Unisex Haircare in Far Rockaway on the evening of April 24.

The new initiative kicks off on April 24 at Platinum Plus Unisex Hair Care, located at 1916 Mott Ave. in Far Rockaway, from 6 to 8 p.m. The next evening, a talk will be held at Alize Barber Shop, located at 1064 Beach 20th St. in Far Rockaway, from 6 to 8 p.m.

A third event will be held at Sports Barber Shop at 144-08 243rd St. in Rosedale from 6 to 8 p.m.

Elected in 2020 as the youngest Black legislator in New York state history, Anderson represents the 31st District which includes the southeast Queens neighborhoods Arverne, Brookville, Far Rockaway, Hammels, Rosedale, South Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill and Springfield Gardens, as well as John F. Kennedy International Airport.