After five months, 26 jog groups, hundreds of runners, and a huge impact across the country, our mental health initiative, Sammy’s Road Trip, is finally drawing to a close.
Just in time for World Mental Health Day on Wednesday 10 October, the three pups, Sammy, Agnes and Lee, are heading home to the jogscotland HQ in Edinburgh, leaving a trail of great work in their wake.
Sammy’s Road Trip was set up to help jog groups chat about mental health and wellbeing. The three toy pups have toured Scotland, from Galashiels to Harris, travelling with a toolkit of ideas for sessions. Each time a pup arrived with a group, they held one of the sessions focusing on mental wellbeing, took the pup out and about, and sent us photos, along with details of what they’d been up to. It was also a way for neighbouring groups to get to know one another, as they met up to pass the pups on.
It’s been a tremendous success – 100 per cent of the groups taking part said that Sammy’s Road Trip had a positive effect on their group, giving them the chance to talk about mental wellbeing, and that they’d like to be involved in any similar events in future. There was even an unforeseen advantage for several groups – just over a third of those taking part said that Sammy’s Road Trip had increased their membership. Publicity surrounding the pups’ visit, the mental health theme, and simply seeing people carrying around a wee furry dug on their jog had drawn people to enquire about the groups who might not otherwise have got involved.
Sammy’s Road Trip also spread the word about mental wellbeing outwith the jogscotland community, with press coverage from local newspapers along the route of the tour, a wonderful piece in the Herald, and several articles in the Scottish Running Guide. One anonymous participant even penned a poem about the trip!
Sessions held by the groups included chatting through SAMH’s Five Ways to Better Mental Health, a positive messages lucky dip, and a visit from a GP who chatted through what to expect if you visit your doctor to talk about your mental health.
One group commented: “Having Sammy raised our awareness of mental health issues and how running can help. It also helped us think how we can support each other. Importantly it gave us the opportunity to highlight the higher incidence of mental health difficulties among the LGBT community.”
Another said: “When one of our leaders took him to her after school runners, she found the kids opened up. The positive message night was such a good idea we will do that again in six months.”
Membership development officer for jogscotland, Jo Stevens, says she’s been thrilled by the response: “Thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of all the groups and leaders involved, Sammy’s Road Trip has been a huge success. It’s been really quite moving to see all the photos coming in from different corners of the country, and to hear about the way the presence of a wee toy pup can prompt people to have conversations about mental health and wellbeing that they might have been shy to have before.
“Sammy’s Road Trip is just the first part of the process – we hope that hosting these sessions will have helped create a lasting culture of openness and supportiveness in our groups, so that they’ll always feel like warm and welcoming places for people to chat about their mental wellbeing.”
The trip is part of our partnership with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health). In February, we were among the first signatories to Scotland’s Mental Health Charter for Physical Activity and Sport, led by SAMH. Under the charter, we pledged to step up our work to support the mental wellbeing of our members. Sammy’s Road Trip is just part of our action plan under the charter – watch this space for news of further projects!