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Halstead barber who lost father to suicide seeks to help others through support of mental health charity

Barber Ken Hermes has teamed up with a mental health charity in a bid to prevent male suicide. (12147173)
Barber Ken Hermes has teamed up with a mental health charity in a bid to prevent male suicide. (12147173)

A barber from Halstead has channelled the heartbreak of losing his father to suicide through a support network for those suffering with mental illness.

Ken Hermes was just a teenager when his father, Kenneth, took his own life after struggling with depression.

“Losing my dad to suicide at 15 left an empty place in my heart,” said the 28-year-old, of Abels Road. “If only my dad could have spoken to someone about how he felt, maybe he would still be here.”

The Lions Barber Collective is a mental health charity, which campaigns to raise awareness of the condition in a bid to combat the rate of suicide.

With support from other charities, the group offers training to qualified barbers to spot the vital signs of mental illness among clients.

BarberTalk encourages individuals to share any concerns or personal struggles with trained barbers, while having a routine haircut.

“It’s a very intimate environment, so it breaks down those barriers,” said Mr Hermes, who works at Gould Barbers in Ipswich, while promoting the charity as an ambassador.

Experiencing the trauma of losing a loved-one to mental illness spurred the father-of-three to join the initiative, while raising awareness of the condition.

“I wasn’t aware of mental health and depression until my father took his life,” said Mr Hermes. “It wasn’t something that was spoken about in my social life – I had no awareness of it and I would hate for anybody to go through the same thing.”

Since the charity’s inception in 2016, the group’s initiatives have provided vital support through key training, which has enabled individuals to share their personal struggles.

“To be able to achieve that with one person is so powerful – it’s extremely rewarding,” said Mr Hermes.

In 2017, figures revealed the highest suicide rates in the UK were among men aged between 45 and 49.

“There’s still a lot of work to do,” said Mr Hermes, who receives support from his family and the collective during difficult times.