AllCommunity NewsJosh Kerwick

Pups Providing Mental Health Awareness

P102311555 Pups Providing Mental Health Awareness

The Pawsitive Steps Festival is back for another year on April 27th 2024 at Rouse Hill Town Centre, promising a day of fun and mental health awareness for the Hills Community during the upcoming school holidays.

Organised by the team at Mind Connections Specialist Health Services, this year’s event is shaping up to be the biggest instalment yet.

There’ll be a stage with live entertainment, a ‘Pawshion Show’, puppy pilates with local MaxFit trainer Lara Perret, informative workshops and walks for wellbeing, the Pawsitive Steps Festival is a highly entertaining way to become more aware of the community’s mental wellbeing.

Mind Connections psychiatrist Padmini Howpage has always highly valued the positive impact of dogs on mental health. She explains: “This event started with my dog who helped immensely when our family went through a difficult time. If the dog wasn’t there, I don’t know how we would have coped – the dog knew that we were sad, and he had this remarkable ability to bring us together.”

That inspiration, along with Padmini wanting to raise more awareness about mental health in the community, led to the Pawsitive Steps Festival. Initially, it began as a general mental health day, but the integration of fun activities and animals has made the space more welcoming to people.

Padmini says: “The Festival is largely a family fun day where children, adults and dogs can join in, but the overarching theme is of mental health. In that way, people feel it’s not stigmatised, and they feel very comfortable talking about the topic – it’s a winning strategy!”

P10230551 Pups Providing Mental Health Awareness
L-r: nathan cassar, mayor peter gangemi, dr padmini howpage, lara perret, dr daya howpage

Nathan Cassar, the event’s MC, is excited to be providing his service to such an important community event. He says: “Pets bring a lot of mental health benefits for us as humans – having a loyal companion like a dog that trusts you, believes in you and wants the best for you is so important, especially when a lot of people in this world don’t get that experience in their human relationships.

“It’s such a privilege and an honour to be asked to do this, and to be the voice and face of such a great initiative. I’m really excited to be able to delight and guide the crowd into each of the little mini experiences on the day because there’s so many things that are on offer. It’s really special and a highlight of my career.”

Though Padmini is hoping that people will have fun on the day, she wishes for all attendees to walk away with a greater understanding of the reality of mental health in the community. “What is most important to me is people actually monitoring their mental health rather than waiting too long until it becomes severe.

To have the ability to talk about mental health like it’s any other physical illness so that people feel comfortable discussing it, that’s what this Festival is trying to do – create awareness on where to go and how to get help. And of course, on top of that, we’ll have lots of dog activities and a family fun atmosphere. Everyone will have something to do on the day!”

The Pawsitive Steps Festival is on April 27th from 9am-5pm, in the area across from the Metro station at Rouse Hill Town Centre that are taking place

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