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Barbers and bartenders get training in mental health first aid

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Bartenders are often called the best therapists and hairstylists hear all the gossip. Take it from Jessica Drake, who has worked both jobs: It’s all true.

“Sometimes I go home and stare at the wall and just kind of decompress,” she said, sighing.

Drake recalled one client who came to her in crisis.

“I’m shaking, because it was really very emotional, that she was recovering from alcoholism and she had a seizure on the floor and her head was dreaded up and I needed to cut it for her.”

Sometimes what stylists hear sends shivers down their spine.

“It is scary,” Ashley Hebert told

Hebert has encountered people who sound depressed and anxious.

“It’s a very sticky situation, knowing the right thing to say.”

That’s why Hebert signed up for a class on Mental Health First Aid through the City of Norfolk.

“The training provides a basic lay persons’ understanding of mental health disorders,” explained Community Services Board Director Sarah Fuller.

The eight hour class scheduled for Monday will also teach a new tool for their trades.

“A little bit of background on what to do if you run into a crisis, who to call,” Fuller said.

Hebert, who owns Changes on 21st Street in Norfolk, plans to share what she learns with her stylists.

The training for bartenders and barbers on Monday is already full, but the city hopes to offer it again.

Meantime, the city is inviting  everyone to come to a mental health community forum next Thursday at Work Release on Granby Street from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It’s a time for people to share what they think would help.

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