Depression and anxiety are a common problem that affect 40 million adults. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are less likely than women to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression. A dog lover in the United Kingdom has come up with a unique way to help.
In an effort to combat this problem, Rob Osman from Bristol, United Kingdom, launched a dog walking group, Dudes and Dogs, to help men who are suffering from these conditions.
Rob Osman suffered from anxiety and depression his entire life. He noticed that one thing that helped him through the struggles was spending time outdoors walking his dog. His feeling better after spending time with his dog was not a coincidence.
Many studies show that spending time with dogs reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and eases loneliness.
After realizing how much getting outdoors with his dog helped him, he started the group to help other men facing the same problems. The goal of the group is “to get men out in the fresh air together for a walk and talk."
Osman also launched a website where he shares about his battle with depression and anxiety:
"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 sisters 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."
He also shares how walking his dog has helped him:
"Picture the scene. It’s one of those horrible wet and windy c****y 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."
He also explains why he started Dudes and Dogs:
"I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something to help people, just never quite sure what. I started to get a good idea of what it was and decided the place to start was a psychology and counseling degree with the Open University."
"In the meantime I’ve been looking to see where else I could help, through talk groups and charities, but I also started thinking about what had helped me hugely, and that was the fresh air and getting out with my dog, the good it does me is for another time."
"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, his mission and his dog walking group is growing. They are sharing lots of related educational information and the media has taken notice. Perhaps Osman has started something that will take fire and spread across the UK and around the world.
To learn more, follow his Facebook page Dudes & Dogs Walk and Talk. Please share this great idea with your family and friends.