Harvey the Labradoodle supporting St Luke’s Preschoolers with mental health

by Freya Lucas

July 31, 2020

Although he has only been a member of the St Luke’s Preschool team for three months, Harvey the Labradoodle has already made a big impact on the 22 other members of the staff team, as well as the children and families of the service. He is now ready for his next challenge – accreditation as a mental health therapy dog.

 

His training is being supported through a State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) Recovery Boost initiative, part of a broader program which aims to improve the mental health of workplaces. 

 

St Luke’s Director Blake Stewart told local publication Illawarra Mercury that the culture of the service promotes all the team “proactively dreaming big” and coming up with new ideas. 

 

As such, when the opportunity came to apply for a Grant which centred on innovative ideas for improving workplace mental health, a therapy dog was something which the team had already considered as an option for boosting the wellbeing of the team. 

 

Harvey arrived at the service in April, when he was around a month old. Coincidentally, his arrival timed with New South Wales moving to stronger COVID-19 prevention measures, and as such, his presence had a positive impact on reducing stress at a very tense time. 

 

His official therapy training will begin when he is one, and in the meantime, Harvey is improving his social skills by mixing with other dogs at puppy school, as well as completing agility training.

 

Staff take turns to bring Harvey home when the preschool is not in session, as well as taking him for daily walks – something which can be used to give them a breather when things are tough at work, as well as maintaining a healthy physical lifestyle. 

 

Once he has completed his therapy training, Harvey will also be able to support children who are experiencing stressful emotions, or who have additional needs. To keep Harvey and the children safe, all children will be given training on safety around dogs. 

 

A second round of SIRA funding has been launched. Those early childhood education and care (ECEC) services who are keen to secure funding for their innovative ideas are encouraged to apply before the 8 August deadline. 

 

To read the original coverage of this story, please see here

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