COLUMBUS (WCMH) — African-American men die more often from “preventable” diseases than any other race or gender.
The African-American Male Wellness Initiative and its annual walk are trying to change that.
NBC 4’s own Mike Jackson helped lead the way for the awareness effort last year.
It’s all about getting the conversation going, and Monday, there was a “barbershop talk” aimed at “mental health.”
“This is about enriching African-American male lives, so walking, health and wellness, they all go together,” said master barber Chevez Moman.
As a master barber, Moman is used to deep conversations.
“The barbershop is a formal conversation place for men,” said Marlon Platt, regional coordinator for the African-American Male Wellness Initiative. “We go there, we talk about everything under the sun, freely, in a safe space, but we want to translate that into mental health and learning that it’s OK to go see mental health professionals and talk about your issues and get the help that you need to advance our community.”
Health experts say black men are often reluctant to open up about their physical or mental health.
“From an early age, we’re taught, you know, men don’t cry. You know we go through something, suck it up, tough it out. But you know we have to find an outlet,” said Rodirick Dye of Acadia Health Care.
One attendee found the talk to be helpful.
“Initially, people are very tentative when they come into situations, to be able to have the conversation,” said Brian Otler. “We have to take away the stigma and be able to have that conversation openly and honestly with anyone and be able to use that information to help better ourselves.”
The African-American Male Wellness Initiative connect with health partners across central Ohio. Walk is a national awareness program, a red flag of sorts, telling men it’s time to talk about high blood pressure, stress, diabetes, and mental health.
“We have to have the conversations,” said Nathanial Stewart, the director of Business Development for Acadia Health Care. “The conversations aren’t being had. We have to evolve those conversations outside the barbershop and take them to places there they can actually get treatment. Get help for the issues that we are seeing in the community. That’s why it’s important.”
The Wellness Walk is coming up Aug. 10 starting at Livingston Park. There will be all kinds of free health screenings to help attendees get a handle on their own health numbers. The event is open to everyone.
NBC 4 was a sponsor of Monday’s barbershop talk and of the upcoming walk.