During Mental Health Awareness Week (and all year round), our TheraPaws initiative raises awareness of the positive effects that interactions with a dog can have on a person, and promotes a two way process of respect and compassion between animals and humans.
Spending time with a dog is known to improve general wellbeing, invoke a sense of safety and security, and offer reassurance to those struggling with their mental health and related conditions.
These are all benefits that our TheraPaws volunteers see first-hand during our ongoing visits to multiple venues in London.
At the Lavender Walk, an acute inpatient mental health ward for adolescents, Francesca and her Portuguese Water Dog Tilly have been visiting young people for almost two months. Their presence has already had a positive impact on the teenagers, with patients saying:
“Tilly being here forces you to live in the moment and forget your sadness.”
“Tilly helps me because you just can’t be upset around dogs.”
TheraPaws volunteers also visit numerous other mental health care units and service providers across London, including the St Mungo’s Rapid Assessment Hub, St John’s Hospice, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, and the Stacey Street Nursing Home.
At St John’s Hospice, one patients’ mental health has seen a poignant difference from TheraPaws volunteer Hugo the Havanese. Even though she now lays comatose from an unrelated illness, the staff still ask for Hugo to sit by her bed. They are convinced that she knows Hugo is there and will be comforted by his presence.
Currently, we have just over 60 teams of TheraPaws volunteers and their dogs, spreading happiness and comfort across 14 London boroughs. Regular visits from a therapy dog make a real difference to those suffering from loneliness, isolation and mental health problems, and we are determined to continue helping as many people as we can.
*all names have been changed to protect patient anonymity
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