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These Dudes And Their Dogs Have The Right Idea About Mental Health

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An estimated one in eight men is diagnosed with a mental health problem, but many more are struggling on without the support. Research shows a third of people find it easier to explain the ‘offside rule’ than what mental health is.

This worrying gap in conversation is what led Bristol-based Rob Osman, 39, to set up Dudes & Dogs, a men’s walking group with a simple name and an even simpler, but effective, concept: to get men out in the fresh air for a walk and talk. Not forgetting to bring their dogs along, too, of course.

Osman had recently retrained as a psychologist, after working in the corporate world for 20 years in sales and management for medical devices. Discovering that dog walks helped him and his friends open up for more meaningful chats, Osman founded his new canine-aided mental health initiative.

Fresh air, animals and talking definitely sound like a winning combination and Osman’s rational was strong. In PDSA’s 2019 PAW report, 84% of pet owners said having a pet makes them mentally healthier. Meanwhile, health statistics showed only 36% of referrals to NHS talking therapies were male.

Putting two and two together led Osman to set up D&D’s first walk in 2019 through Bristol’s Leigh Woods – bringing Mali, his gorgeous Hungarian Viszla, along for the ride. There were just three dudes – and the dog – that day, but members soon reached as high as 30 men per free-to-join stroll.

“Dogs act as a pressure valve, it allows you a brief second out of that heavy moment to laugh,” explains Osman, who says they also make for a different environment, acting as a distraction for men talking about difficult subjects.

You don’t even need to own a dog to come along, but there’s always one there. Whether walkers want to talk about the big stuff, the small stuff, or the latest football news from the weekend, they can tag along and share at their own pace.........

© HuffPost

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