Mental health awareness week - dogs can help!

Mental health awareness week - dogs can help!

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, and just like all year round, Mayhew’s TheraPaw dogs have been busy spreading comfort and happiness during their ongoing visits to multiple venues in London.

It’s no secret that the companionship offered by an animal is extremely beneficial and can go a long way in reducing anxiety and stress. Dogs give people a reason to get up in the morning or to get some exercise. Dogs can also act as a loving companion for those who have maybe lost a loved one, or just need some company later on in life.

However, many people don’t have the opportunity to share their life with a pet so over 60 teams of TheraPaws volunteers have been making regular visits across 14 London boroughs, making a real difference to those suffering from loneliness, isolation and mental health problems.


At the beginning of this year, TheraPaws dogs made visits to London offices to brighten the day of employees during Blue Monday.

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 helps me because you just can’t be upset around dogs.”

Tilly being here forces you to live in the moment and forget your sadness.”

We wish Tilly could come in every day."

Spending time with a dog is known to; improve general well being, invoke a sense of safety and security, and offer reassurance to those struggling with their mental health and related conditions. The 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.

TheraPaws volunteers see the positive impact first-hand. The teams also visit numerous 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.

Louise Penfold

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