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Published Tuesday 16 Apr 2019

People receiving mental health support are buzzing about the free haircuts being provided by local student barbers and hairdressers.

Barbering student Robbin styles a client at the Te Whare Ahuru ‘salon’.


Each month, barbering and hairdressing students visit Te Whare Ahuru – an inpatient mental health unit at Hutt Valley Hospital – to trim, snip and style clients’ hair free of charge.

The initiative is the idea of Mental Health, Addictions and Intellectual Disability (MHAIDS) social worker Jayne Bentley and former Premier Institute of Education (PIE) barbering tutor James Rooney.

“Many of our clients are marginalised, vulnerable, and on a benefit – meaning they can’t afford, or make, hairdresser appointments within their normal day,” said Jayne.

“Social interactions may benefit clients by providing a sense of social belonging, which they often don’t have. Overall client wellbeing and participation has increased since the initiative started – with clients having an increased sense of belonging.”

PIE in specialises barbering, hairdressing, skincare and make-up, nail technology and beauty therapy training. Students took to the initiative enthusiastically and are briefed on safety and confidentiality.

“The visits have encouraged a sense of ‘giving back’ among the students, and they take part with enthusiasm,” James said.

“They’re delighted to have this unique opportunity to interact and communicate with people from varied backgrounds, and are inspired by the experiences shared.”

The visits are advertised on posters around the unit – along with reminders from staff – and, on the day, the students set up a ‘salon’, which can accommodate four to five clients at a time.

“It has really lifted clients’ spirits – they often talk about how good the barbers and hairdressers are, which convinces more reluctant clients to get their hair cut too,” said Jayne.

“The initiative has helped break down barriers, and instil a sense of confidence and pride. Clients say they feel valued, respected, and have told us that having the hairdressers visit makes them feel good about themselves.”

Media contact: Chas Te Runa – 027 230 9571