'World Mental Health Day': The Dog Dudes encouraging others to walk and talk

In the lead up to World Mental Health Day, a walking group in Ystrad Mynach has been talking to our reporter Hannah Thomas about how important it is to open up and share their mental stresses.

Ian Coates told ITV he was struggling with his mental health, so much so it was having an impact on his personal relationships.

He admitted, "That historically has probably been my problem, I've been really unwilling to share how I'm feeling when I'm having bad days.

"I'm always happy to share the good ones. But anything bad I always kept inside myself."

In Easter 2021 he decided to join the walking group 'Dudes and Dogs' because their main aim is to encourage men to talk about their emotions in a safe environment.

Ian now runs his own 'Dudes and dogs' walks in Ystrad Mynach as an official "Dog Dude".

He said, "Many of the men who join the group say that therapy can feel confrontational but walking side by side with a dog is a friendly distraction."

Each year in Wales between 300 and 350 people die from suicide but men are around three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Chris and Ian go for regular walks in Parc Penallta together with their dogs.

Official leaders of 'Dudes and Dogs' like Ian and Chris Williams are now working towards becoming mental health first aiders while also creating connections and friendships for life.

Chris who leads walks in the Cardiff area has described the group walks as a 'lifeline' for a lot of men.

He said, "Especially with what we've had within the last 12 months of the pandemic it's really been a time to reset, to rethink and to evaluate what they need.

"And ultimately address their mental health and battle their demons.

"Exercise is good for the body and good for the mind, that's what has helped so many men who have joined the group."