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Dudes and Dogs help men combat depression

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The biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK is suicide.

According to the Office of National Statistics, one in four men have thought about taking their own life and over 40% of men suffer in silence. In an effort to combat this, Dudes & Dogs, a community initiative, was set up to get men walking and talking. 

A walk founded in Bristol by Rob Osman now runs all across the UK and Ireland, with a Sunday Stroud session available to men aged 18 and over, offering peer support that promises a listening ear, company and fresh air.

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By joining the walks, you can be listened to as you decompress, speak freely and in confidence about things you haven’t felt able to before, you can pick up coping mechanisms, learn about what other options are available to help you and share experiences with people going through similar things.

After co-hosting the Gloucester sessions in April 2021, “Dog Dude” Kieran Yarwood now leads the groups on Haresfield Beacon after starting out on Selsley Common.

Kieran said: “Ranging from those with diagnosed mental health conditions to those who could just do with the fresh air and getting a few things off of their chests, we cater to all sorts of people, from all walks of life. Dudes & Dogs also come with the benefits of being outside and the company of dogs, and in the case of the Stroud walks, a registered therapy dog too. 

“We find that we have been able to lift people’s moods, help them manage their mental health, understand their feelings, learn to be comfortable talking about their emotions and so much more.”

Kieran attended his first walk in late 2019, where he met Rob and several other volunteers. He began co-hosting after completing his training in 2020, working around lockdown restrictions in secure dog fields on Robinswood Hill, Gloucester. A surge in bookings post-covid warranted a split into two walks, with Kieran starting the Stroud version which is now on Haresfield Beacon.

Gordon, one of the men who has been along to the walks in Gloucester and Stroud, cited the wide-ranging conversation as a reason for the nature of the group’s success.

“I like that the guys basically talk about anything they want (apart from politics!) – there’s never any pressure to share, but if you do want to share problems you’re going through, you’ll be listened to without any judgement.

“If we’re feeling down; if we need to get something off our shoulders, the guys are there, but we really have talked around an eclectic mix of subjects during the walks I’ve been on so far,” said Gordon.

Kieran said: “We’ve had a range of people, all with different reasons for wanting to try us out. Some came after experiencing traumatic events, others alongside other therapy and self-care, with others still coming to simply maintain their mental health. 

“Seeing the positive effects attendees get is often hugely rewarding, to see someone giving a walk a try, then not only visibly benefiting initially but continuing to join over a length of time, using the walks to maintain better headspace, is really special.”

To sign up or for more information, you can visit the Dudes & Dogs website: https://www.dudesanddogs.co.uk/ or search ‘Dudes & Dogs’ on social media. Alternatively, you can email rob@dudesndogs.co.uk.

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