30 Jul

jogscotland Pups Hit the Road to Promote Mental Health

jogscotland mascot Jog Scotty’s pups, Sammy, Agnes and Lee, have been very busy over the past few weeks. They’re on their summer road trip, helping jogscotland groups around the country engage in conversations around mental health and wellbeing. 

Sammy’s Road Trip, the fruits of a partnership between SAMH (the Scottish Association for Mental Health) and jogscotland, started on 3 May and will finish in Edinburgh in time for World Mental Health Day in October.

Jog Leaders from 30 groups across the country will be taking care of one of the pups for a few days, as they pad around the country.

One of Agnes’ first stops was Linlithgow, where runABC Scotland spoke to Jog Leader Lorna Simpson of Let’s Go Linlithgow.

Lorna had several reasons for offering a home to one of the pups: “I lost my father in 2016 and running has played a part in the grieving process. My dad was a runner and running has helped me feel close to him. My 'running family' has been a great support to me throughout.”

“I also wanted to help start conversations around mental health and physical activity. Most people are happy to share something like a broken leg but when it comes to something concerning their mental health they are reluctant.”

In Lorna’s care, Agnes has certainly had plenty of exercise. She’s been to beginners’ running sessions with Let’s Go Linlithgow, a Jog Livingston session with Livingston Athletic Club and a Falkirk parkrun. Oh, and she’s run Alloa Half Marathon too, Not bad for a puppy!

But it’s not all been hard work. Agnes has also joined the party at Linlithgow AC’s summer social and watched the crowds go by at ‘4 on the Foreshore’, a fun run in Bo’ness, where she got her own ‘shout out’.

Lorna enjoyed her 10 days as Agnes’ master, and feels the initiative has been a success: "Having Agnes with me has been a great ice breaker for starting conversations about mental health. Not many people walk around wearing jogging gear and holding a small dog.

“I’ve met lots of new people too as it’s also encouraged others to approach me to share their stories. Many people have told me how running has helped them with their anxiety or depression.”

But taking the puppies on tour isn’t just about starting conversations on mental health; it’s about carrying them on too.

“Having Agnes also shows people who are already addressing their own issues or who are already receiving help feel less alone.”

Jo Stevens, membership development officer for jogscotland, said she was delighted with the road trip’s progress: “It’s been really incredible seeing how our jogging groups have embraced the tour – everyone’s really taken on the ideas we’re promoting.

“There’s been a huge range of sessions held. Some groups have held walk and talk sessions, and there have been positive message lucky dips and talks from GPs about what to expect if you go to your doctor to discuss mental health too. Some groups have even talked through SAMH’s ‘Five ways to better mental health’.

“Most of all, it’s about showing people that our groups are welcoming places where you won’t feel embarrassed or awkward if you want to talk about mental health.”

She said the benefits of the tour had even extended beyond its original aims: “We know some groups have actually recruited new members while one of the pups was visiting – people have seen Jog Leaders out and about with the dog and stopped to chat, and decided to join the jogging group as a result.

“It’s going really well, and it’s all down to our brilliant Jog Leaders and members, who have taken on the tour with so much enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone taking part.”

To keep track of the pups' progress, follow them on Facebook: SammysRoadTrip.