headspace has partnered with RSPCA NSW at Yagoona to provide an innovative therapeutic program to help young people experiencing mental health issues. The PetSpace program is an animal assisted therapy program that is dissimilar to traditional models. In the program young people learn to work with animals cared for at RSPCA who have experienced trauma. The program teaches young people how to care for the animals who are from a trauma background while at the same time it helps them learn how to better understand their own mental health. The program also provides the young people with a certificate from TAFE NSW on caring for animals.
The program is offered to headspace clients at Mt Druitt, Penrith, Castle Hill and Parramatta and highlights that animals also have their own lived experience. Through finding ways to care for animals the young people enhance their own self-care. The program works with a diverse range of animals including dogs from violent homes, parrots that self-harm due to anxiety and even reptiles and horses. It includes reading books to dogs and supporting parrots to feel less stressed. Now in its fifth year, the program continues to be the most popular program at headspace and has demonstrated significant outcomes for both the young people and the animals involved.