Modern times bring their fair share of stress, anxiety, and melancholy. While depression affects both men and women, men are four times more likely to take their own lives because of it.
While struggling with his own depression, UK resident and father Rob Osman found solace in a daily activity that has led to a growing movement to help men open up and heal with each other. Rob discovered that walking his dog was an easy entry point to talking with other men who tend to be resistant to seeking mental health treatment.
This led to his project “Dudes and Dogs,” a men’s mental health group dedicated to showing men everywhere that it’s not just okay to talk; it is vitally important. Participants don’t have to own a dog, as at least one man in the group will have one. There’s no pressure to talk: they just have to show up and enjoy some healthy exercise. “Walking a dog is a conversation waiting to happen,” says Osman. “When people are around the dog, they drop their defenses.”
Studies have shown that hanging out with animals has a positive impact on people with anxiety and PTSD. Animal interaction can also boost one’s mood and reduce blood pressure. Of course, anyone who’s ever loved a pet knows this firsthand.
The “Dudes and Dogs” program has grown in popularity in the UK and in the US, forming powerful friendships along the way. People can book a free dog walk on the group’s Facebook or website calendar. Potential participants can even test out a virtual walk to see if it’s for them. There are also specific dog walking groups just for “Military Dudes.” This program’s mission to normalize the conversations of mental health issues, specifically for men is working, and what better way than to invite man’s best friend to help out?
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With today’s challenges, a shorter work week looks like just what the doctor ordered.
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