Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
September 21, 2022
Lorenzo Lewis | The Confess Project
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am Lorenzo Lewis, Founder of The Confess Project, the national organization supporting local chapters that train barbers and stylists to become mental health advocates, with the mission to build awareness and break stigmas around mental health within the Black community. The organization also trains essential frontline workers to become more empathetic and effective professionals.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
The Confess Project began in 2016 because we recognized a need to equip marginalized Black men and boys with mental health strategies and coping skills to help them move past their pain. In the African American community alone, suicide is the third leading cause of death. We exist to help change that. Our vision is a world without stigma and shame. My first talk was at a historically African American church in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since then, I’ve traveled all over the country to speak at universities, K-12 schools, and conferences to encourage men to be their best. Drawing from stories in my book Jumping Over Life’s Hurdles and Staying in the Race, I share my own journey to wellness as a way to inspire hope—from narrowly escaping the school-to-prison pipeline to behavioral health professionals. The Confess Project is now a leading voice in the mental health advocacy field. The Governor of Arkansas has recognized us for our efforts across the U.S., and in 2019, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation honored us with their “Pioneer for Advancing Minority Mental Health” award. In addition, Fast Company named The Confess Project one of “The 10 most innovative health companies of 2021.”
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
The Confess Project was started as a grassroots initiative and is best recognized as ‘America’s first mental health barbershop movement.’ With a scarcity of mental health resources available to the Black community, and a stigma around expressing feelings and personal struggles, The Confess Project sought to reduce the very high suicide rates among Black men. It’s been proven that men, especially Black men, are more inclined to have real conversations with their barbers, and as a result, training these barbers to effectively react to and support their clients was a natural focus. Now, with more than 1,600 barbers trained across the country, the organization is establishing national incorporation and instituting chapters in key cities so that it can continue to focus on reaching as many people as possible through its barbershop training.
Why does this work matter? Suicide is the third leading cause of premature death in Black males ages 18-24. Only 3-4% of mental health professionals are Black. The Confess Project is looking to change that by raising mental health awareness for Black boys and men, and training barbers to be mental health advocates for their clients, community, friends, and family.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
The Confess Project has now trained more than 1,600 barbers to be mental health advocates in 47 cities across the United States.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
It’s been proven that men, especially Black men, are more inclined to have real conversations with their barbers, and as a result, training these barbers to effectively react to and support their clients was a natural focus.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
The Confess Project’s goal is to have 2,000 barbers trained to be mental health advocates across the U.S. by the end of 2022. We are looking to expand the movement even further in the future and have barbers trained to be mental health advocates in all 50 states. We are currently in 26 states.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
With 1 in 5 people in the U.S. affected by mental illness, there has never been a more urgent moment for mental health advocacy. TCP’s programming specifically focuses on communities of Black boys and men who have ignored their own mental health struggles for too long.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
We won’t stop advancing our mission until we see the life expectancy for Black boys and men increase, and legislation that ensures it lasts. Your struggles don’t need to be kept a secret anymore.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
“I am more than a pair of clippers; I am improving my community through the barber chair one client at a time.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
We have some very special supporters who deeply believe that we’re helping Black boys and men achieve a better quality of mental wellness. These donors donate monthly to do their part to ensure we continue educating our youth and families so more of them can achieve their goals and live successful lives. Please consider joining this incredible group of donors. We depend on our donors to make it possible for us to light the way for Black boys and men to thrive as mental health champions. As a monthly donor, you are helping us get Black boys and men ready to succeed and ultimately live prosperous lives through mental wellness.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We give purpose-driven organizations that want to do PR the strategy, resources, and support they need to get started so they can increase awareness and maximize their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to email@example.com.