(TMU) — Like many people, Rob Osman has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of his adult life. However, the 38-year-old man from Bristol in the United Kingdom recently came to the realization that he could always rely on his dog, Mali, to help him with his mental health.
In hopes of sharing that sense of relief and clarity, Osman set out to transform the lives of other adult males by setting up Dudes & Dogs Walk & Talk. On the group’s website they set out the basic goal of helping “to get men out in the fresh air together for a walk and talk.”
The idea isn’t a bad one, especially considering that men are often resistant to using mental health services and are far more likely to suffer in silence rather than seek therapy or medication to treat mental health disorders.
On the Dudes & Dogs website, Osman detailed his own ongoing fight with depression and the therapeutic role that dog-walking played. He explained:
“I think I can consider myself one of the lucky ones in life. I had a good upbringing, fit and healthy, got an amazing family. I guess I fit into the ‘big jolly guy’ category. I hope I do, that’s nice. But yet, I’ve suffered a bit too. I broke my back which put paid to my hopes of playing at a decent level of cricket. I then had to have an operation a few years later when I thought everything was getting better and was reduced to living in my sister’s windowless basement smoking far too much weed to care.
I lost my dad in my 20’s. Not that unusual, but still something that can have a massive effect on my mood. The bit that very few know about; I’ve suffered with social anxiety since the age of about 10. When I was younger it manifested in basically throwing my guts up in pretty much any social situation, especially where girls were involved.”
Osman noted how having a dog changed his life, writing:
“Picture the scene. It’s one of those horrible wet and windy crappy cold days that we do so well in the UK. There’s no way in hell I want to go out in this, especially not the way I’m feeling.”
But there’s the dog, she doesn’t care that I feel like crap today. She doesn’t care that the weather is rubbish, she just wants to get out and play. With me. Really? Yes really. And you know what, it’s been the best therapy I’ve ever had.”
This place…. this dog…. things that make me happy.#dudesanddogscic #internationalmensday
Continuing, he said:
“But when I was reaching out to others, part of my message always said, come on a dog walk and it reaffirmed what I already knew. This was a way I could help people. By giving them what I had. That time out, that time away, no signal, no noise but nature, just time.”
So far, the group seems to be working wonders for members. One regular participant wrote:
“The whole concept of dudes & dogs is fantastic … I am having a pretty crap time of it lately and meeting Rob and the dudes is gonna be a massive help and I must admit to a couple of blossoming bromances which is awesome. Can’t recommend this highly enough.”
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One of my happy places 🏝 🐕 💕 Completely blown away by all the positive messages of support on Instagram and Facebook 🤯 I’m working my way through them this evening and tomorrow so if you’ve messaged me and I haven’t replied I apologise and will get back to you ASAP. There has been an overwhelmingly positive response and I am so glad that this has struck a chord with people and we can hopefully start a movement which will have a real impact on the lives of men and and their families who are struggling. Tag your mates and help us spread the word about @dudes_anddogs and raise awareness for #mensmentalhealth 💪 . . . #dudesndogs #mentalhealthmatters #mentalwellbeing #mensmentalhealth #manandog #walkiesandtalkies #dogonbeach #winterbeach #happyplace #landseaandsky
While another excitedly added:
“I joined the trial walk on Saturday morning and if the trial is anything to go by, I can confirm that a Dudes & Dogs Walk takes you to good places, both physically and mentally.”
Osman stressed that his mental health initiative is one that is sorely needed for male adults who are often too stubborn to seek out help. He explained:
“We want men to understand that it’s not just okay to talk, it’s important … Talking helps. It really does. It’s helped me no end, but sometimes as men, we aren’t the best at it.”
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