COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Leaders from the African American Male Wellness Agency are hoping to encourage more central Ohio men to open about the struggles of mental health.

The challenges of stress, anxiety, and depression can be an overwhelming burden. But through their initiatives like “Real Men, Real Talk” the AAMWA is working to make sure men don’t have to bear that burden alone.

“Someone always needs someone to talk to,” admits Cornelius McGrady, who attended Saturday’s event both to learn and encourage.

As a survivor of human trafficking, McGrady didn’t always have that person to turn to.

“I find it hard just from my point of view, initially. Where growing up, we grew up with, ‘Keep everything to yourself,'” McGrady recalls.

Now, an advocate working to prevent others from falling victim to the same exploitation, he’s sharing his story.

“This year I’ll be celebrating four years,” McGrady encourages.

It’s men like McGrady that the AAMWA is hoping to reach through their mental health initiatives.

“Our goal is to just break that stigma, make it easier something to talk about,” explains Keith Pickett, the agency’s Mental Wellness Program Manager.

The program provides an open forum for men to discuss both long-term traumas, and the challenges of everyday life that lead to stress, anxiety, and depression.

“Family issues, work issues, friendships, relationships — it’s just all those different things that we know that everyone deals with,” details Pickett. “We just know that in our community it gets bottled up more, and it goes untreated more.”

Which is why the agency works to connect men to resources in the community.

“We have a therapist and a counselor that are usually on hand at all of our events,” says Pickett.

They also have a network of partners throughout Columbus that contribute to men’s health and wellness.

An effort to see African American men live longer, healthier lives.

“Even for those who may not speak up, you’ll hear other brothers in the conversation speaking on things you have went through, or questions you may have,” Pickett encourages.

The African American Male Wellness Agency’s next event is on February 1st, called “Turning Visions Into Missions.”

For more information on the agency and upcoming events, you can visit their Facebook page here.