Antonio Igbokidi remembers his father as the man “behind the newspaper.”
At home, he was quiet, almost mysterious. “But I remember going to a barbershop with him often,” Igbokidi said, “and him talking about things I’ve never heard him talk about.”
Igbokidi’s dad, who immigrated from Nigeria, found brotherhood among men getting haircuts in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, as a third-year medical student at the Burnett School of Medicine at TCU, Igbokidi invites people to a similar space in barbershops across North Texas.
The first Barbershop Talk Therapy in 2023 will take place Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Lake Como House of Fades Barbershop in Fort Worth. The event includes free haircuts, free health screenings and a psychiatrist-led discussion to help people process the death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man whom Memphis police beat during a traffic stop. His funeral was Wednesday, Feb. 1.
They’ll also talk about stress, anxiety and depression.
Anyone is welcome, Igbokidi said, but the conversation specifically centers men of color. No registration required.
If you go:
What: Barbershop Talk Therapy, a collaboration between the Burnett School of Medicine at TCU and the Fort Worth ISD Family Action Center. The event includes free haircuts, free health screenings and guided group therapy.
When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5
Where: Lake Como House of Fades Barbershop
4615 Horne St.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Who: Anyone is welcome. The conversation will specifically center men of color. No registration required.
When Igbokidi moved to Texas in 2020 for medical school, his first to-do was finding a barbershop. “Obviously,” he said.
The pandemic had barely begun, and he overheard men sharing their fears while getting haircuts. The roots of an idea began to form: The barbershop has “always been a sacred place,” he said. A pillar. A necessity: “Everyone needs a haircut, right?”
Perhaps he could, with the help of a psychiatrist, harness that energy to help people heal. Igbokidi himself plans to study psychiatry.
He’d seen similar projects move mountains. Before moving to Texas, he worked as a community health worker in Iowa. “I was really able to see how impactful grassroots activism, you know, boots to the ground, just meeting the community where they are, how advantageous and how profound that was,” he said.
In April 2022, the first Barbershop Talk Therapy took place. Since then, Igbokidi has organized five or six sessions across North Texas. The turnout ranged from only a handful to several dozen.
The event works like this: People show up and take a brief survey about their mental health.
Igbokidi collects the survey data as part of a grant from the American Psychiatric Association, which allows him to pay the barbers for their time. “For me, it’s very important to provide them monetary funds so there’s money that’s continuously flowing into the community,” he said.
Attendees then receive free haircuts and health screenings — blood pressure, glucose readings, some light blood work — a process led by Dr. David Capper, academic chair of clinical sciences at the Burnett School of Medicine at TCU.
Meanwhile, Dr. Brian Dixon, a psychiatrist and assistant professor of clinical sciences at the medical school, facilitates a discussion among the barbers and patrons.
“Before you know it, it just becomes organic, just like fireworks, and everyone is trying to contribute,” Igbokidi said. “People are talking about things that they’ve never told anybody in their life. And so you really start to see a lot of the healing kind of come into place.”
The conversation touches on next steps for mental health care, whether through therapy or free practices like meditation or exercise. The group discusses barriers to care and how to overcome them.
People of color, including Black and Latino people, are less likely to use mental health services than their white or multiracial peers, according to a 2021 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Barbershop Talk Therapy’s purpose is, in part, to forge connections between people who attend and mental health resources nearby, Igbokidi said.
“We just really urge everybody who feels it on their heart to come and have these conversations and to participate in the healing process,” he said. “And to see the community heal and grow from the inside out.”
Want to help?
If you’re a therapist, preferably a man of color, who would like to facilitate a future Barbershop Talk Therapy, or if you own a barbershop and are open to hosting, email Igbokidi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.