It’s no secret that men often have difficulty opening up about their feelings. Perhaps feeling pressure to live up to generalised expectations of what it is to ‘be a man’. Things have changed a lot over the last decade but compared to women, they are still far less likely to seek emotional support for their problems. Often until breaking point or beyond.
Research by The Samaritans in 2018 found that men in the UK are 3 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Their report cites loneliness as a significant factor in leading men to the edge of despair. Men are encouraged to find support separate from their partners by strengthening their social relationships... but that's not always straightforward. We're more aware that it’s ‘good to talk’ and understand that not talking about feelings can have negative consequences. Yet, The Samaritan's findings showed that men often remain unsure where to turn for help.
Encouragingly, some innovative groups are being formed to get men to meet up and talk more openly. Browsing around Instagram the other day I came across @dudes_anddogs, a group set up with the intention to:
“…get men out in the fresh air together for a walk and talk”.
Founder Rob Osman had been struggling with his own mental health. He’d been suffering from social anxiety since childhood and he found difficult to talk about it. He suffered a back injury which required an operation and a long recovery. This dashed his hopes of playing cricket professionally. Rob also lost his Dad in his 20s which had a big impact on him. A Dad at his son’s school suggested Talk Club, a “talking and listening club”. The meet ups create a safe space for men to talk about their thoughts, feelings and concerns. Rob began to understand how helpful it was to share what he was going through.
Rob had also noticed that getting out in the fresh air was helping his mood. His dog, a Hungarian Vizsla called Mali, needed her walks whether he felt like it or not. This responsibility meant he was getting outside regularly.
Understanding that the combination of regular connection with others, sharing feelings and getting outdoors was having a positive impact on him, Rob hit on the idea for Dudes & Dogs; getting men together to “walk and talk” and pass on to others what was working for him.
At first the walks were centred around Rob’s home in Bristol but interest in the initiative has grown and Dudes & Dogs has recently welcomed a new band of walk leaders to arrange outings across the country.
HOW DO I GET INVOLVED?
- Follow Dudes & Dogs on Facebook and Instagram
- Join a walking group
- Become a Dog Dude walk leader
- Look up Talk Club
If you need help you can call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or visit www.samaritans.org