A handler and his Newfoundland dogs who work with Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust LPT to hold therapeutic water rescue sessions to help veterans with mental health issues are in the running for a prestigious Soldiering On Award.

Pete Lewin, who runs the canine non-profit organisation, was nominated for the awards by Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust in the Animal Partnership category, following a series of successful sessions, helping veterans seeking mental health support by the Trust.

Brendan Daly, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s armed forces lead, said: “The results we saw from the sessions we’ve had, led by Pete, were great. Veterans who took part were able to feel a sense of peace and relief, some for the first time in a while. They worked with the dogs in the water, in the beautiful surroundings at Stanton Lakes. We think we are one of the first NHS trusts in the country to offer this kind of therapy and are very proud to be working with Pete and his Newfoundlands.

“We are very grateful to be able to offer this experience to ex-service personnel who need some support with their mental health in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We wanted to nominate Pete to show our appreciation and to help to spread the word about this kind of therapy.”

The sessions, which were funded through the Trust’s charity, Raising Health, involve ex-service personnel taking part in a series of relaxing floating and towing experiences in the water with the specially trained Newfoundland dogs.

Pete Lewin, who is a Hinckley-based EMAS paramedic, said: “This sort of therapy is really unique. It isn’t about curing mental health disorders, but instead it helps to give the veterans some respite for a few hours and allows them to take their mind off any negative thoughts. It works well on many levels; you get the cold-water therapy – which helps people to focus on the present and their breathing – as well as the enjoyment of working with the dogs who are so affectionate and supportive, which helps people to relax.”

The winner of the Animal Partnership Award, which is being run in partnership with Pets at Home, will be decided by a public vote. Members of the public can cast their vote at www.soldieringon.org/2023-public-vote until the online voting portal closes at 23:59 on Sunday 6 August.

The awards, now in their 13th year, celebrate the very best of the Armed Forces community, across a diverse spectrum of twelve categories from Healthcare and Rehabilitation to Business of the Year and Animal Partnership. The winners will be announced at a glittering black-tie event hosted by special guest presenter Jeremy Vine at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster Bridge on Wednesday 27 September 2023.

For more information on the support provided by LPT for veterans living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, visit:  https://www.leicspart.nhs.uk/veteransupport

For more information about Raising Health, please visit www.raisinghealth.org.uk , where you can also donate to enable the Trust to put on other extraordinary support sessions, like the ones hosted by Pete and his pets, to help even more of our patients and service users.