Veterans’ charity urges tattoo artists to accept mental health training offer
Hairdressers and tattoo artists are being encouraged by a veterans’ charity to take a short course on how to spot and support suicidal clients.
Help For Heroes said there was “ample anecdotal evidence” that salon staff often provided “informal therapy” sessions to veterans struggling with their mental health by bonding with them as part of their daily work.
The charity is promoting a free 30-minute training course that anyone can access, put together by experts from The Armed Forces charity and the Zero Suicide Alliance.
Having gone through very difficult times during and after my military career, I am able to sympathize with my clients, who become friends. I think tattoo artists are perfectly placed to take this training and learn to spot the signs when someone might be struggling.
Help For Heroes said a veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, explained how a tattoo artist saved his life by bonding with him during long sessions in the salon at a time when he was contemplating suicide.
While getting tattooed to commemorate fallen soldiers, the artist admitted he had mental health issues and extended his sessions over several days – even though the piece could have been completed in a matter of hours.
The veteran said that act of kindness allowed him to work through his thoughts and ultimately saved his life.
Aaron Baillie, a retired Royal Engineer with 22 years of service and a tattoo artist for the Chesterfield, Derbyshire Veterans Community, said his sessions often served as informal therapy for clients.
Mr Baillie, who took the training, said: “I regularly tattoo serving military and veterans and most of the time the tattoo appointments almost become therapy and ventilation sessions.
“Having gone through very difficult times during and after my military career, I am able to empathize with my clients, who become friends.
“I think tattoo artists are perfectly placed to take this training and learn to spot the signs when someone might be struggling.”
Kemsley Whittlesea, another veteran turned tattoo artist, from Maidstone in Kent, also attended the training.
Mr Whittlesea, who served for 15 years before being medically discharged with a shoulder injury, said: ‘Every time I’ve been on tour I’ve ended up losing a number of my comrades , as well as friends, by suicide.
“As soon as I heard that Help For Heroes was running an awareness campaign for suicide prevention training for tattoo artists, the stars aligned and I knew I had to come on board to help out in every way. possible ways.”
One in three military veterans have felt suicidal in their lifetime, according to a YouGov survey of more than 8,300 people, including 455 veterans, commissioned by Help For Heroes in July 2022.
The charity said former members of the armed forces were more likely to turn to family and friends for help than to a formal therapist.
His short training session aims to help people spot the signs of someone struggling with their mental health, including veterans, and open up conversations about it.
Help For Heroes especially urges people with roles in their communities who regularly find themselves having long conversations with clients to participate.
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