Cockroaches, rats and bearded dragons used in therapy

Child holding a millipede
Millipedes, creepy crawlies and other animals have been used to help people suffering with mental health issues [Natalie Bell / BBC]

Rats, hissing cockroaches, bearded dragons and millipedes are helping people in Lincolnshire overcome mental health issues.

The unusual therapy animals are being used at the newly opened 1st Choice Animals Assisted Therapy Farm, in Spalding.

The farm's owner, Danika Clark, feels the animals bring calmness to people suffering with issues such as anxiety.

Ms Clark said her daughter, who has suffered with low self-esteem, had "now found her confidence".

Reindeer at a farm
Reindeer are among the therapy animals [Natalie Bell / BBC]

She said: "When she is upset she will take herself off and she will use some of the animals. It is just a release of stress for her."

Ms Clark also has therapy cows, alpacas, kittens, rabbits and reindeer.

"To see someone that’s got severe anxiety come out of their shell, it gives you goose bumps," she said.

"It just makes you feel so proud as a person that you are helping someone deal with something that they can’t express in any type of form.

"Kids love the hissing cockroaches and touching them. It’s just a sense of calm for them having the weird animals, like who would expect a hissing cockroach as a therapy animal?”

Ms Clark's daughter is one of those who have benefited from using the therapy animals. She said: "I feel really nice coming here and seeing all of the animals. It makes me feel amazing and I love every single one of them with all my heart.”

Danielle Beck, registered clinical animal behaviourist, says the connection between a human and animal can have a really positive effect.

She said: "It’s amazing how much you can bond with a reptile. It’s the idea that they are different, which can really help people feel better about themselves and people can find a connection there.

"Bearded dragons in particular can be incredibly tactile. They are curious and like to crawl on you and hang out on your shoulder.

"Having that connection with an animal regardless of their species can be huge for a lot of people.”

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