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Crop, look and listen: hairdressers help Samaritans highlight the life-saving power of listening

Samaritans is calling on hairdressers and barbers across the UK to help let people know that listening saves lives.

There are 160,000 hairdressers and barbers in the UK, and they make up 1 per cent of the workforce. It is estimated that they each spend nearly 2,000 hours a year listening to their clients.

By highlighting hairdressers’ listening expertise, Samaritans is illustrating the value of us all becoming better listeners, ahead of what it is calling The Big Listen on Monday 24 July.

On that day, Samaritans is asking each of us to build up our listening skills by using its SHUSH! Listening Tips to help a friend, relative or family member who may be going through a tough time:

Hairdresser and Gogglebox star Stephen Webb said: “As a hairdresser, over time, you realise that the person sitting in front of you could be in real need of a chat. A massive part of my job is to simply listen and as a hairdresser, we take our role as listeners very seriously. You go through so many things with your clients: deaths, births and marriages. And you’re there for each other every step of the way.”

Mental Health campaigner Jonny Benjamin said: “We could all benefit from becoming better listeners, which is why I am supporting Samaritans Talk to Us/The Big Listen. The fact that Neil listened to me and stopped me from taking my life that day in London all those years ago, shows what a powerful skill it is.”

Neil Laybourn, who campaigns jointly with Jonny, said: “The more we really listen to each other, the more we empathise, which could go a long way to making us a kinder and more inclusive society.”

Using the SHUSH listening tips, Samaritans is hoping to make the UK a nation of better listeners, and to emphasise the value of talking through problems if people are struggling.

At King’s Cross railway station in London on Monday July 24, Samaritans is teaming up with the Lions Barber Collective, who raise awareness of suicide prevention and train barbers to listen to their clients in a bid to reduce the high suicide rate among men. Founder Tom Chapman will be at King’s Cross between 8am and 10am, and will be joined by mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn.

On Monday 24 July Samaritans is asking each of us to improve our listening skills using the SHUSH! Listening Tips to help a friend, relative or family member who may be going through a tough time:

  • Show you care:  focus just on the other person, make eye contact, put away your phone
  • Have patience:  it may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up
  • Use open questions:  that need more than a yes/no answer, & follow up e.g. ‘Tell me more’
  • Say it back:  to check you’ve understood, but don’t interrupt or offer a solution
  • Have courage:  don’t be put off by a negative response and don’t be afraid to leave silence

Samaritans volunteers will be out and about at events all over the country handing out copies of the tips along with stickers to put on your computer, phone or fridge, reminding you to use them.

Samaritans is confident that the better we all become at listening, the fewer people will feel they need to suffer in silence, become overwhelmed by their problems, and go on to take their own lives. For anyone who feels they can’t talk to someone they know, Samaritans is there in confidence, free to call at any time from any phone, and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

Hairdresser Vikki Craig, who is 45 and from Falkirk, became a Samaritans volunteer after honing her listening skills in her salon: “What I loved most about it was being able to really listen to clients. People would talk to me about things they felt they could never tell their own friends and family. I felt humbled and honoured to be there for my clients in that way.

“Becoming a Samaritans listening volunteer was an easy fit for me and it’s such an important part of my life now. The value of listening is incredible and I would encourage everyone to explore Samaritans’ SHUSH Listening Tips and look at mastering their listening skills to become better listeners for friends and family.”

Samaritans’ CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “Three times more people die by suicide than from road accidents. Samaritans volunteers are trained to be good listeners, but this is a skill we can all learn. Many hairdressers are naturally good listeners and many more people can learn those skills too. We’re grateful to the Lions Barber Collective and hairdressers across the UK who are working with us and our volunteers to help get that message out there. Together we will save lives.”

You can find out more about The Big Listen and Samaritans’ SHUSH! Listening Tips at or on Facebook or follow the activity @samaritans on Twitter, using the hashtag #TheBigListen.

For further information or interview requests, contact Samaritans’ press office on 020 8394 8300 or

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