Animal therapy for mental health ward

The Charitable Foundation funded animal therapy to benefit patients in Rochdale. Beech Ward is an elderly acute mental health ward on the Birch Hill hospital site. The facility treats a variety of mental health issues including; depression, anxiety and more complex disorders.

With many well-known benefits of human-animal interaction in the field of mental health, animal therapy is popular with patients, staff and visitors. Noah’s Art is a company which provides a service to hospitals using a variety of rescued animals to help mental health patients. A selection of animals has been used including, rabbits, cats, rats, guinea pigs and dogs.

With patients thriving off the therapeutic benefits of this service, Noah’s Art has another six visits planned to visit Birch Hill Hospital. Throughout the course of the day patients are given the chance to play, hold, feed and pet the animals. Through these small acts patients can feel needed and part of something meaningful. Most patients find the animals entertaining and make an effort to remember their names, this allows the patients of Beech Ward to engage, build relationships, increase their confidence and feel a sense of achievement.

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Pets are known to have a positive calming influence and majority of patients enjoy the noises they make and are intrigued by the movement of the animals. For some it can take them back to happier memories of their own pets. As a whole the experience of animals in the Beech Ward has generated positive emotions and helped with mindfulness, wellbeing and motivation.

Sharon Hall, Noah’s Art said: ‘People with mental health problems find communication difficult and can struggle with expectations to behave a certain way.

“People also struggle with building relationships and trust making them feel very isolated. Animals provide an instant attraction and draw people in. When people are low they are still able to cope with an animal, it provides them with a connection and can let them know they are still part of the world.

“It wonderful to see how excited and happy patients get even before we are fully through the door!”

Nicola Brett, Ward Manager said: Patients have found great benefit from the animals visiting. Patients that at times can find communication difficult have spent time with the animals, playing with them, holding and feeding them.

“Patients have also been able to communicate better with the animals and engage more easily.

“Patients can be seen to visibly relax as they spend time with the animals and these benefits have been nice for the staff to observe.

“The visits have been funded by the Trust’s Charity. We submitted a request for this following a donation from a family who’s loved one was cared for on the ward. It is nice to know that the care provided on the ward was appreciated, and the ongoing visits provide a lasting reminder of this.” 

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