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Veteran credits hair-cutting with saving his life

William Willoughby thinks cutting hair saved his life.

Willoughby has been living with post traumatic stress disorder for the three years since he left the military. He’s been on medication, he told ABC-7, but recently found something that barbering worked better than the pills.

“I started noticing I didn’t need to take as many medications that I normally would take to keep me level-headed,” Willoughby said.

It wasn’t just helping him. Willoughby said he met another veteran in barbering school who was feeling the same soothing effects.

“So, I kind of built the concept three years ago in my head,” Willoughby said. “Over the course of the last two years I made it come to life.”

Willoughby is talking about his barber and tattoo shop, Gunznclipperz. He explained to ABC-7 why he included ink in his business venture, which is located at 14087 Pebble Hills Boulevard.

“Tattooing is a form of therapy,” he said. “I’ve lost soldiers and I’ve got memorials on my arms (as) tattoos, memories, family. That’s a form of therapy as well.”

Gregory Livingston, the owner of Montana Barber Institute, told ABC-7 that Willoughby’s experience isn’t isolated. He has seen anywhere from 50 to 100 vets enroll in his program in recent years.

“The pressures and the stresses are very severe — even working in an administrative office. They can’t function with the stresses of today’s society coming out of the military,” Livingston said. “The barbering atmosphere allows them to relax, breathe and pace themselves through life where they can build and work out their issues with barbering.”

That rings true for Joshua Johnson.

“One day I picked up a pair of clippers, and I decided I’m going to give my sons a haircut,” Johnson said. “Come to find out, it helped me. I was struggling with a lot of PTSD, a lot of anxiety.

“When I went into cutting, it was more of a relaxation method. It helped me get over a lot of the things I was struggling with on the outside.”

Now, Willoughby is focused on helping others like him. He’s hiring other vets to fill the booths at his Far East El Paso shop, hoping they can change their lifestyles while they’re changing hairstyles.

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