Story and photos by Bev Jordan

Pets are a great way to break down barriers which is why Coco, the Howpage family’s loveable black and white dog has become a larger than life mascot in the drive to de-stigmatise mental health.

When Hills psychiatrist Padmini Howpage set up the Positive Vibes Foundation it seemed obvious that Coco should inspire a mascot.

The plush puppy has now moved into print with a book called Mindful Coco which aims to foster resilience in children at a young age.

It features beautiful illustrations by award-winning artist Dilara Niriella, Dr Howpage wrote the book with the help of her family and has dedicated it to her husband, Daya and children Sashie and Sajith.

“If I told children I wanted to talk about mental health they would take a step back … Dogs are an ice-breaker, so I took up the challenge to write a book with Coco giving the instructions.”

“A lot of thought went into it,” said Dr Howpage.

“It took about six months and a lot of emails and phone calls.”

While it is suitable for people of any age it is hoped that adults will take the opportunity to read it to young children and guide them through it.”

Dr Howpage says one of the keys to good mental health is mindfulness.

“It is about being aware of this moment in time. “It’s not about thinking of the past or the future or emptying your mind…it’s about being aware of the here and now. Focussing on the moment right now.

“I would love to get into to schools to teach children to be mindful,” said Dr Howpage.

With the help of Coco she can.
Mindful Coco costs $20.
For information call 9871 7777.

EXCERPT: “Coco focuses on her breathing, which calms her mind. Coco uses “breath in” and breath out” as her anchor word. Whenever her mind wanders, anchor words help Coco to return her focus to breathing.“

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