A TINY owl is helping children and adults to combat their fears.

Murray, a burrowing owl, named after tennis star Andy, to encourage people suffering from depression and dementia to relax and talk.

Psychologist and handler Anita Morris from social enterprise Hack Back CIC also visits Halton schools to tackle bullying and boost children’s self-esteem.

A picture book about Murray being bullied by other birds, Murray The Smallest Owl, is being launched on Thursday.

The little owl is helped to discover his own strengths by Widnes schoolgirl Ellice Bowskill, 13, a Hack Back volunteer and pupil at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic College.

“In the wild, Murray runs very fast and digs burrows but he can’t fly very fast,” said Anita, from Cronton.

“The book explains how being different is OK and helps children to recognise their own individual talents.”

Murray visited the Mayor of Halton to support Halton’s mental health month in May.

The bird has helped children with autism and learning difficulties and worked with cancer sufferers and people with life-limiting conditions.

“One little boy with autism found it very difficult to stay calm,” said Anita.

“He wanted Murray to fly to him and realised that the only way this could happen was it he sat still.

“He stayed calm for three minutes.”

Veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and victims of domestic abuse have also been able to talk about their trauma after meeting Murray.

“We have had amazing results,” added Anita. "Murray helps children to trust me and open up and talk.

“At a very tense time Murray can lift the mood.

“I remember visiting one man in a hospice and seeing a big smile on his face. His family was smiling and talking.”

Anita brought Mango, an eagle owl, to Astmoor Primary School on Thursday as part of a reading with owls project with Runcorn Rotary Club.

Children were all given a book to encourage them to read for pleasure.