A friendly dog named Mutley is helping patients at the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Mill View Hospital in Hove.
The black crossbreed has been a 'miracle cure' for 22-year-old Harry, who received six months of inpatient care for treatment of his mental health over the last year.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Mel Moss brought her dog Mutley onto the Pavilion Ward at Mill View Hospital.
Harry's mum Vanessa, said: “Harry had been so unwell for such a long time and had been in various hospitals and come home again only to need to go back in again. We knew this time we really wanted him to come to Mill View as we know the care to be excellent here, and it hasn’t disappointed us.
“Harry had been really struggling on the ward and had a lot of excess energy and stress to get out. When he heard that Dr Moss had a dog and she was keen to bring him in he was really excited. We knew he had a love for animals but we never expected to see this visit have such a profound effect on Harry.”
Harry added: "When Mutley first came on the ward it was so great to meet him. I instantly felt myself calm down, he let me stroke him a lot and I was able to play with him in the garden. You can just see everyone smile when he comes onto the ward; no matter how bad they are feeling.”
He was able to return home to his family three weeks after Mutley first visited the ward and is now getting back to normal life.
Vanessa said: “We couldn’t believe how quickly seeing Mutley impacted Harry – he was able to sleep properly, he felt calmer and he was able to respond better to the other treatment he was receiving. It seemed a bit like a miracle cure.”
Dr Mel Moss, who is overjoyed by the response, said: “I have always wanted to bring Mutley to work with me as the positive link between animals and improving mental health is well known. Unfortunately I was unable to bring Muttley onto my previous ward but when Harry specifically asked to meet Muttley I brought him in as I really believed it could help him.”
Harry explained how Mutley gives him a sense of purpose: “When Mutley comes it helps me to get out of my room. Spending time with him makes my worrying thoughts go away as I have something to concentrate on. I love playing with Mutley outside and training him to catch and play, it’s like when I go skateboarding, it’s fulfilling and fun.”
Harry and his parents Vanessa and Kevin are now planning to welcome their own puppy to the family, a black Labrador that will be named Thor or Buddy.
"I’m really looking forward to getting my own dog to look after and train. One day, when the dog is ready I’d love to take him to autism support groups or to hospital wards so he can help the patients there in the same way Mutley has helped me," said Harry.
Vanessa, Kevin and Harry have all praised the support they've received from Dr Moss and other staff at Mill View Hospital.
Mill View Hospital is run by the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and provides mental health inpatient and community services in Brighton and Hove.
To find out more about the services that Sussex Partnership provides, visit: www.sussexpartnership.nhs.uk