Joan Each Rowan has no idea how many people her salons have helped throughout the years.

The evidence, however, quietly speaks for itself.

You can see it in the disappearing "how to get help" brochures off the counter. You'll spot it on tab flyers that hang on a wall or bulletin board — the ones where you tear off a strip with a number to call.


"Those need to be replaced — and often," says Rowan, who owns the two Everything's Relative salons on Chicago's south side.

Photo via Everything's Relative Salon, used with permission.

For the past 20 years, Rowan has been pushing for her salon to be a place where people get help with more than just their hair. With assistance from advocates committed to ending domestic violence, she's been teaching her stylists what to do (and what not to do) if they suspect or know a client is being abused at home. She also places resources, like the brochures, in discreet areas of her businesses, such as the bathroom, for clients to take with them if they need help.

Now, the stylists at Everything's Relative Salons have become unlikely warriors in the fight against domestic abuse. Soon, every other stylist in Illinois will be too.

Illinois just became the first state to require that all licensed beauty professionals take an hour-long course on how to spot domestic abuse.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2017, new cosmetologists will have to take the course in order to obtain their license, as the Chicago Tribune reported. The training will also be folded into continuing education requirements stylists must complete every two years to renew their credentials.

Although Rowan wasn't the first or only salon professional to implement her own training without a law telling her to do so, Everything's Relative has been at the forefront of the issue for decades, having realized the important connection between the seriousness of domestic abuse and the simplicity of getting a haircut.

We at Everything's Relative would like to wish you and your family a Happy Holiday 🎁❄🎄☃🎅🏼🎁

Posted by Everything's Relative Oak Lawn on Saturday, December 24, 2016

Domestic abuse is an issue that no doubt affects many clients who walk through the doors at Everything's Relative — about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men in the U.S. experience violence at the hands of a partner at some point in their lifetime, according to nonprofit Chicago Says No More

The thinking behind the new law — which was brought before legislators by Chicago Says No More — is both obvious and clever.

"[Clients] tell you a lot," says Rowan, who's worked in the industry for 42 years. "People talk to their hairdressers."

When clients talk, proponents of the law say, it only makes sense that cosmetologists should be prepared to listen and respond accordingly, if a red flag should arise.

The law — an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act of 1985 — was put in motion by Illinois Rep. Fran Hurley and State Senator Bill Cunningham, who said his wife's experience as a stylist years ago inspired him to act.

“She told me stories about her clients providing details about terrible incidents,” he explained to the New York Times. “She offered a sympathetic ear. She was young at the time and did not know how to get them help.”

The law aims to leave no stylist feeling like Cunningham's wife had — helpless and with few resources to provide a client in need.

The training will help stylists feel empowered about speaking up — without crossing a line, according to Rowan.

First and foremost, stylists are not required to report incidents of violence and won't be held liable in any case involving a client — an important aspect of the law meant to protect beauty professionals.

The training will, however, teach them how to spot signs of abuse and suggest resources clients can access (such as nearby safe havens or numbers to call) while making sure to carry a judgement-free and caring demeanor.

A Paul Mitchell cosmetology school in McLean, Virginia. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

The course also outlines what stylists shouldn't do — like follow-up with their client on the suspected abuse the next time they visit the salon or try to counsel clients on their specific situations.

"We are not psychologists. We're not the cops," Rowan says. "But the sensitivity training will give the cosmetologists the confidence to be able to say, 'There's information in the bathroom over there if you need a hand,' or, 'You really don't need to put up with that.'"

"It's very, very important," Rowan says of the new law. "And I don't think it should stop with cosmetologists."

Similarly to how many workers are educated on sexual harassment or how to handle instances of discrimination in the workplace, it wouldn't be such a bad idea for other positions requiring a state license to get domestic abuse training too, she notes.

While Rowan can't guarantee everyone in the cosmetology industry will be on board with the new law — some have argued, for example, that the law puts unnecessary pressure on stylists to be crime-stoppers — she has no reason to think it won't be widely accepted: "I have not talked to a salon owner who has thought it was a bad idea."

"This is going to be great for everyone," Rowan says. "We live in a violent city. But violence begins at home."

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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