Toby the dog leads way to get people into a good head space
HE HAS no psychology degree and no formal training, but one Headspace volunteer with an instinct for helping people feel better about themselves and the world around them is having a big impact.
Toby is a five-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu cross and living proof of the power of unconditional love.
His owner, Headspace centre manager Shelly Craig says he has taken to his role "like a duck to water".
"There is so much proven research into therapy dogs. I always knew there was that effect, but until you see it, you just don't realise," Ms Craig said.
"Toby seems to know what he's here to do.
"The clients are so much more relaxed; they just light up when they see him."
Toby wears his green or orange bandana uniform to "work" each day and even the staff have lifted from having him around.
Professionally trained therapy dogs are expensive and outside Headspace's budget, so Ms Craig thought she'd trial the idea by bringing Toby to work.
In further good news for Headspace and the people who rely on the service, confirmation was received on Friday that the organisation will be refunded for the next 12 months.
"It's business as usual," Ms Craig said.
"There is no other service like ours; an early intervention service for young people with mild to moderate cases of mental ill-health. As a mother of two teenagers, I never dreamed the extent of the problem we have.
"And I don't think there's any depth of understanding on the numbers of young people who don't have a home, or are in a dysfunctional or unsafe home.
"There is help out there, but it's about knowing where to find it."
Toby will be available for pats at the Youth Week Touch Football Carnival on Tuesday, April 14.
What is Headspace?
Headspace is the national youth mental health foundation to help young people going through a hard time.
They offer one-on-one counselling and group sessions where young people can share their journey, their stories and experiences.
Since opening in January 2014, Headspace Rockhampton has conducted 800 consultations with 300 young people.
They also offer vocational assistance, a free sexual health clinic and a school support program around suicide prevention.
Contact Headspace on 4921 9800