A new haircare project highlights mental health issues in the black community

A new award-winning haircare project is set to improve the mental health of Sheffield’s African-Caribbean community.

The Black Hair Care Project aims to give individuals from the African-Caribbean community, who are suffering from mental health issues, the opportunity to have their hair done for free.

The idea for the project came about when Ursula Myrie who experienced a decline in her emotional well being resulting in her being sectioned.

Ms Myrie won the 2021 winner of the Barbara Wragg charity award.

Haircare project post (Credit: Adira)

She said: “The project is historic. Nothing like this has been done in Sheffield. There is a tight link between black mental health and black hair. Fix the hair, and all the other problems would fall into the place. “

The project launched in October 2020 and has since helped more than sixty people before the third lockdown.

“We don’t do it for vanity,” said Ms Myrie, “We need to have our hair in a certain style to protect it, and to avoid our natural hair being damaged by the weather elements here.

“You would also understand why it’s so important to us if you knew what a massive part it plays in our history.”

Research by mental health charity, Sheffield Flourish shows that 33% of black people feel that a lack of hair care is causing mental pressure during the lockdown.

Ms Myrie said: “Many people in the black community treat the salon or barbershop as a therapy room. They would rather tell their problems to a barber than a therapist.

“For a Jamaican, if your hair isn’t right, nothing is.”

Tamara Clarke, who was bullied at school because of her hair, was a user of the service, and now she is helping with the project.

She said: “As a young black woman myself, I know the struggles of caring for our hair, and other ethnicities are often not aware of how much effort it takes to manage Afro/Caribbean hair.

“I feel that the UK mental health services are very westernized, and adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach to mental health when this simply is not the case.”

The 20-year-old wants to help as many people as possible to feel ‘happier’ so that they can ‘take comfort in the knowledge that someone has thought about them’.

Click here to make a donation to the project: https://www.adira.org.uk 

Written by Jinqian Li

A 2nd-year journalism student at Sheffield University

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