LISE Marron had some time to spare before a meeting at the University of Southampton in connection to her PhD so she popped to a local shop.

Suffering from depression, her eyes were on the ground; she tried to make her slight frame smaller as she became aware of the group of youths coming towards her, calling her names.

Name-calling was something she was used to.

Her small stature - she is four foot nine - and slim frame, exacerbated at the time by an undiagnosed stomach condition, often drew unwanted taunts.

In fact, Lise has faced bullying and taunting since she started at primary school.

But this time, it was different.

The attack didn't stop at verbal abuse.

One of the youths doubled-back after passing her and tripped her up from behind.

She was flipped up into the air and fell awkwardly. It was later discovered that her pelvis had been fractured in three places.

"They stood behind me looking at me and I felt very intimidated," says the now 40-year-old from Southampton.

"I was trying to get up but I couldn't. One of them came round the front and was sniggering at first but when he realised that I wasn't messing, he helped me get up. I stood propped against a bollard until a couple of women helped me into a nearby shop and an ambulance and the police were called."

Lise spent nine days in hospital, but the catastrophic consequences of the attack have been far longer lasting.

That was almost 17 years ago.

She is still in constant debilitating pain, describing wanting to 'rip her right side off', to escape it.

She walks with a stick and also uses a wheelchair but is frequently confined to her home, where she is dependent on help to complete the most basic tasks, from getting out of bed and dressing to preparing meals.

She has gone from exploring new places and planning on travelling the world to rarely even leaving Southampton - which is particularly tough when her family still live in her native Ireland.

She no longer even leaves the house without a friend or personal assistant (PA) with her.

At the time of the attack Lise was studying for a PhD in clinical nutrition.

A top student, she had worked several jobs to fund her way through university, achieving first class honours and, having had an academic paper published and won a prize for best in her year, had been able to skip studying for an MA and get straight onto a funded PhD.

She planned to pursue a career as an academic.

Having seen her parents struggle financially, she had been determined to earn a comfortable income.

But the attack dashed all her plans.

She had to give up her PhD as she was no longer physically or mentally capable of working at the level needed and due to chronic pain and exhaustion has been unable to retrain in anything else for the same reason.

She suffers bouts of paralysis, particularly on waking, and only has a few hours in the day when she can really do anything, before pain and exhaustion take over again.

"Having suffered years of verbal abuse, I was very independent, probably too independent, before the assault," says Lise.

"I didn't really trust other people and I found it very difficult to accept PAs into my life. I struggled on for four years after the assault but it just didn't work. Now I have help from PAs for around nine hours a day.

"Something that was very upsetting for me was when I went out after the attack and still found myself getting verbal abuse from strangers. The last time it happened, I'd just popped to the shops near me, and some youths started shouting at me and asked where I'd got my 'magic stick from', my walking stick.

"I wanted to say 'it was from someone like you,' but I knew that could turn a verbal attack into a physical one. Now I don't go out without someone with me."

Unsurprisingly, the attack and its impact had a negative impact on Lise's mental health.

"I had been struggling with depression, and I fell into an even deeper depression after the attack," she says.

But Lise has found a way to fight back against depression and to gain more confidence, and it has four legs and a tail.

Eight years after the attack, Lise got a dog, Daithi, who she trained as a physical assistant dog.

And she set up the charity, Capable Creatures, to help empower people with mental health conditions through peer support and the use of dogs.

"I used to be petrified of going out after the attack because I had so much pain and if someone brushed against my right side, it was like an electric shock going through me, so I trained Daithi to walk on my right to protect me. Daithi also acts as a social lubricant, as the attention is on him, rather than me, so I began to have more confidence.

"I went on to train him to nudge me if I was getting distressed by suicidal thoughts or flashbacks.

"The biggest thing is having a dog present, for the companionship, the knowledge that you are responsible for the dog. It's a protective factor if you're having suicidal thoughts.

"You can have your family and friends, but you don't think about the future when you're having those thoughts. But the dog is right there with you and you can't ignore it.

"Also, taking care of a dog gives you a routine. Often that's something that can be lost with mental health issues. And you need to look after yourself in order to be able to look after your dog."

Lise organises monthly peer support walks on Southampton Common through Capable Creatures and is currently piloting a 'Guides for the Mind' assistance dogs programme, to assist people with mental health issues in the training of their dogs to mitigate specific disabling symptoms of their condition.

Since setting up Capable Creatures in 2014, Lise has reached more than 50 people through the guided walks, and hopes that many more will be helped by the Guides for the Mind scheme.

Lise also hopes that sharing her story will help to highlight the life changing injuries that can be caused by attacks such as the one that she sustained.

"Support for victims of hate crime is important but I believe there needs to be more focus on prevention," she adds.

"Action needs to be taken to stop this from happening in the first place. There needs to be more education, to help people realise that it's OK for people to be different."

* You can find out more about Capable Creatures at or by searching for Capable Creatures on Facebook. Peer support walks are generally held on the fourth Tuesday of the month on Southampton Common. Search for 'peer support dog walking on Facebook'