‘Masculinity, it’s not what you think’

By Daniel Clarke

With three times as many men dying by suicide as women – a figure which has been the same in the UK since the 1990s*, we should be investing time in understanding male mental health both for ourselves, and for the other men in our lives - be they colleagues, partners, family or friends.

Rob Osman, founder of Dudes & Dogs, took us through his workshop  ‘Masculinity – it’s not what you think’, last week at tails.com, challenging some of the ideas we have around what it is to be a man.

We learnt that Rob’s experiences working within a hyper-competitive, male-dominated work environment had made him feel the need to suppress the inherent emotional part of his personality for fear of being considered weak or vulnerable.

Consistently suppressing his true, authentic self, led him to dread going to work each day which was ultimately not a sustainable way of living. However, it also inspired Rob to set up his community interest group Dudes & Dogs in Bristol in 2019 which aims to get men outside in the fresh air for a walk and talk, with dogs providing companionship and a source of distraction (the farts, fox poo rolling, the face licks etc). Rob also now spends time talking to businesses like tails.com about how we can create positive environments culturally and personally so that everyone is able to bring their best self to work.

This workshop provided a welcome reminder that each one of us has a life outside of work which may on occasion present us with some challenges. Given that we spend a significant proportion of our week at work, it is critical that people feel empowered to share when they’re having a bit of a rough time without fear of judgement.

Rob created an extremely comfortable environment for a diverse range of colleagues from across the business to talk openly about their personal experiences, with fellow pack members offering their advice and support on a range of sensitive issues.

I’ve been with tails.com for a month and this workshop has provided yet more proof that I am surrounded by an incredible bunch of people!

Key take-aways:

- If somebody shares a problem with us, it’s not necessarily about fixing it. Listening fully and giving space to acknowledge someone’s experience and feelings can be the most helpful thing to do.

- Signposting the support we want (e.g. I just need to share this problem OR please can you give me practical advice) can help create clear expectations and better communication.

- Vulnerability and strength are not mutually exclusive – embracing vulnerability is a source of strength as it takes great courage to face our emotions and the way we are feeling.

- Getting out of the office and going for a dog walk meeting is both a great thing to do and actively encouraged!

- We all have a duty to our colleagues to create an environment and culture where they can bring their true, authentic selves to work each and every day.

If you want to find out more about the fantastic work done by Dudes & Dogs, please check it out here: https://dudesndogs.co.uk/

*ONS. (2019) Suicides in the UK 2018 registrations. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2018registrations