Meet the Mo Rated barber and writer using the power of conversation to help male mental health in Leeds
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Kayleigh Bradshaw's zest for life is infectious.
She's warm and bubbly and it's easy to see why many of her clients have returned for years, enjoying a chat and a trim in the barber's seat.
Kayleigh is a Movember Rated barber, which means she's trained in how to spot clients who may be suffering from mental health issues, pointing them in the direction of help.
She's also a keen writer and has launched a website during the third lockdown, The Barber Diaries, where she shares anecdotes of life in the barbershop and wellness and self-help tips.
Kayleigh's own battle with anxiety and depression left her bed-bound for months and she's opened up about her experience online, in the hope of letting others know they don't have to suffer alone.
"Being self-employed in lockdown was tough," Kayleigh, 28, told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
"But it was a great opportunity to start The Barber Diaries, I built the website from scratch during my free time while we were closed.
"A lot of my clients have said it’s really helped them, they’ve used the tips to get through difficult times and stick to positivity and mindfulness."
Kayleigh's website is an extension of the support she offers at Lords' Barbering in the city centre.
She's part of a global community of barbers using the power of conversation in the barber's chair to improve men's mental health under the Movember scheme.
“It trains you to pick up on body language," Kayleigh, who lives in the city centre, added.
"If clients aren't acting like themselves or talking like they usually would, or if they've had too much to drink, I ask them - 'Is everything okay? Do you want to have a chat about anything?'
“I found out during the Mo Rated course that 80 per cent of men are more likely to talk to their barber than anyone else.
“A lot of issues can stem from relationship problems and I think because I’m a woman, it’s easy for them to open up to me.
“And often the best way to do it is through social media, a lot of people feel more comfortable talking online rather than in person."
There are two prongs to Kayleigh's website: a series of short stories about what goes on inside the barbershop which are available for a monthly £1.99 subscription fee, and a second blog on wellness, Brighter Days, which is available for free.
Kayleigh ran a five-day campaign for Mental Health Awareness Week in May, sharing the stories of those who have experienced mental health issues - including her own.
"I suffered really badly with anxiety," Kayleigh said.
"I was at work one day doing a blow-dry and suddenly I had a massive panic attack.
"I thought I was having a heart attack and I called an ambulance, I didn’t know what was going on.
"A week later, a doctor told me I had severe anxiety and borderline depression. I thought - ‘that can’t be possible, I’m fine’.
"But as soon as they told me that, it hit home, and that was it - I was in bed for about six months. I didn’t leave the house, the anxiety got worse and worse."
After a difficult few months, Kayleigh sought professional help and leaned on self-help books and journaling to process her feelings.
She added: "I was looking through social media and seeing everyone else doing well, as well as looking back through my own journals of when I was in a good place. I realised I wanted that again.
"I started reading books and self-help tips, seeing a counsellor and I went on medication which helped to stop the panic attacks.
"I still use mindfulness and meditation daily, to cope with everyday stresses like everything with Covid.”
Kayleigh's campaign was well received by men across Leeds and beyond.
“The response was unreal," she added.
"I had messages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Clients said they were shocked to read something about me that was negative, as I come across as a loud and bubbly person.
"When I used to read self-help books, I really connected with them. I want people to get that from my writing; it’s easy reading, it’s casual and it’s straight to the point. I want to cheer people up.”
Kayleigh is now studying a Level 2 NVQ in mental health and she runs a group at Leeds wellbeing cafe and bar, Better Days, extending her support beyond the barber's chair.
She has also written a dark romance novel, The Day That Changed Everything, based on her own experiences and hopes to have it published in the near future.
Sharing her story hasn't been easy, Kayleigh said, but she wants to normalise speaking about mental health and hopes to turn The Barber Diaries into a charity to help more people across the country.
“I want The Barber Diaries to be massive," Kayleigh added.
"I still want to do the funny side of it, the crazy barbershop stories, but I'd love to turn it into a charity to help people stay positive and start conversations.
"In my journal I write the negatives and positives of every day.
"I think if we all took more time out to do that, rather than covering everything up, then the world would be a better place in terms of mental health."
How Mo Rated barbers are supporting men across the country
Kayleigh is part of the Movember Foundation's Mo Rated barber scheme, which trains barbers to use the conversations they have with clients to make a difference to men's health.
This includes difficult conversations about life, love and tough times, and Mo Rated barbers are trained on how to signpost clients to get further help.
Kayleigh believes opening up those conversations is more important than ever.
"In the modern world, I think men worry that they're going to be vulnerable if they talk about mental health," she added.
"They may worry about losing their masculinity, or they don’t feel like they have the right to be upset.
"It’s very easy to come home from work and ask your dad, your partner or your brother how their day has been - but it’s important to ask how they really are or what’s stressed them out that day."
Andy's Man Club provides support for men who are struggling with their mental health. Email [email protected] for more information.
The West Yorkshire mental health 24/7 support line provides confidential advice on 0800 183 0558.
Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service, for anyone aged 17 or over, can be found at www.leedsmentalwellbeingservice.co.uk.
For those struggling with alcohol and drug use visit www.forwardleeds.co.uk.
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