A man from Bristol, England, named Rob Osman has been struggling with his mental health for years. Since he was 10 years old, he has suffered from debilitating social anxiety. But recently, he discovered a simple activity that helped him manage his emotions – walking his dog, Mali. Now, Rob is aiming to help other men like him who are battling against mental health diseases by encouraging them to join his group, Dudes & Dogs Walk & Talk.
Rob launched the group in October 2019 with the primary goal of helping other men open up about their mental health issues. After walking his pup Mali, he realized that the activity gave him a sense of comfort and clarity.
“Dogs are like four-legged antidepressants. When people are around the dog, they drop their defenses. They play with the dog,” the 38-year-old told Today.
On his Facebook page, Rob admitted that he has suffered from severe social anxiety ever since he was a young boy. His fear was so intense, that he throws up “in pretty much any social situation,” especially when there were girls involved.
Rob’s struggle with mental health only became worse in his 20s when his dad died. The devastating loss led him to depression. He tried taking medicine for it, but nothing seemed to help him overcome his issues. He remained depressed and anxious until he learned that there was an endless source of comfort and joy sitting right at his home – his Hungarian Vizsla, Mali.
At the beginning of 2019, Rob resigned from his corporate job and focused on studying psychology at a local university. He also dedicated his spare time walking dogs and bonding with his family. Friends would often join him during his walks with Mali and other dogs. As they are strolling outside, he and his pals would start up interesting conversations. Soon after, Rob noticed that dog walking had a positive effect not only on his well-being but also on other people’s.
This realization pushed Rob to help other men who were struggling with their mental health. He began by launching a community interest group for people in his locality. It pairs men with a trained volunteer and dog, encouraging them to explore the outdoors and talk about their feelings – something that Rob believed men felt ashamed to do.
“We want men to understand that it’s not just okay to talk, it’s important,” he wrote. “Talking helps. It really does. It’s helped me no end, but sometimes as men, we aren’t the best at it.”
Rob’s theories were right and have been supported by research for years. As for being outdoors, studies have shown that there was a significant correlation between time spent in nature and reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Researchers refer to this as ecotherapy.
Experts have also confirmed that pets are good for our mental health. They are beneficial to people with PTSD, autism, and dementia. They can also help heart attack and stroke sufferers to recover.
Rob is forever grateful to his beloved canine Mali for being instrumental in his and other people’s healing from mental health illnesses. He hopes to expand the membership of the group worldwide so that more lives can be transformed.