Growing up, young boys are accustomed to hearing phrases such as, "Big boys don't cry" or "Push through the pain," all of which are sayings that prevent men from seeking health care later on, according to Ana Tomsic, the Men's Health Network vice president.
With a lot of men unwilling to visit their doctor's offices for checkups, Tomsic says that they often turn to self-diagnosing and self-medicating, helping to contribute to the ongoing opioid crisis in America.
As a part of Men's Health Month, the Men's Health Network is hoping to bring awareness to this issue, and other health issues relating to men and young boys.
"The problem with opioid crisis is that men don't typically go to doctor," she said. "Men have lower rates of insurance and lower rates of going to doctor's offices. If they are suffering, they are more likely to take other measures -- self diagnose or use another person's medicine -- and they are not getting the full care that they should be getting."
She said that it starts by not seeking proper care, and that once anyone becomes addicted to anything, it changes an individual's way of thinking. And while a person may be aware that they do have something wrong, they may think it isn't as serious and will just pop a pill to ease the pain.
"We at the Men's Health Network want to make sure we are educating men and families to go to the doctor to get the actual care they need," Tomsic said.
She said because of the mental stigma men face of showing no weakness, statistics show that men and boys have a higher risk for mental health disparities and addiction.
"(The statistic) is true," she said. "Because they are trained not to talk to anyone. Women -- we talk to anyone that will listen. If we go to a nail salon, or a hair salon, we will talk about anything to that person, but for guys, they ask about the big game, or the race listings."
One initiative that the network advocates is for the Barber Shop Initiative, where barbers are encouraged to try to talk to customers about mental health or health care in general along with being active, engaged and make men aware of things that matter concerning their health.
Tomsic said that the more grown men are comfortable talking about their health and mental health, they more they can talk with their children about proper care, making it more likely to end the stigma.
"That way men are more likely to instill that in their kids' brains that health and going to the doctor is a good thing," she said. "Growing up hearing to push through pain, that sits in their brain and makes them think that showing weakness means that they aren't man enough and they don't want that."
Tomsic thinks that these issues can be addressed first by just letting men and boys know that it is okay to talk to someone and see a doctor about possible concerns.
She encourages programs through the workplace and schools, as that is where most people spend their time.
"Having mental health clinics in the workplace or someone to talk to when you need to, someone who is there," she said. "Even just a monthly or quarterly meeting that would put into a regular speed that would make it a routine and priority."
In observance of Men's Health Month, Tomsic encourages men to do something for themselves, and seek health care providence.
"With Father's Day coming up, do it for yourself and for your family," she said. "Give the gift of your own health."
As part of Men's Health Week, the network will hold an event, Friday, June 14, asking people to wear blue to raise awareness for men's health. People are encouraged to take pictures wearing their blue with the hashtag, #ShowUsYourBlue, and say who you wear blue for.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.