Using Pets to Fight Mental Illness

Pets are an important aspect of society. They are often afforded more respect and consideration than some human beings. And this can be imputed to all the joy pets inject into an individual's life.

However, while one cannot deny the comfort a pet can bring into one’s life, these creatures might play an even bigger role in the lives of those persons struggling with mental illness.

hugging a dogThe Proliferation of Mental Illness

Mental illness is officially a real thing now. That doesn’t mean mental illness wasn’t around in past decades, centuries or millennia. Rather, it is only in recent times that mental ailments have been accepted and appreciated for the toll they can exert on an individual’s life.

Nevertheless, even with all the effort that has been injected into understanding mental illness, such ailments still attract stigma from society. For a lot of people, mental illness has brought isolation and loneliness, with many patients of mental diseases suffering in silence for fear of losing their connections and social status.

It is very important for patients with mental illness to maintain a sense of order, this along with nurturing a positive outlook and identifying the purpose of one's life, and all these are factors that cannot be achieved without proper support.

The Pet Factor

When you talk to most doctors about the importance of proper networking and support to the lives of mental illness patients, they will typically presume that such networking and support is constituted by close friends and family, possibly even workmates. However, it looks like now more people than ever are turning to their pets as sources of support over friends and family. In a study performed by D. Helen Brooks (University of Manchester, United Kingdom), out of 54 subjects who were utilizing mental health services at the time, up to 60 percent elevated their pet as the most important part of that central circle of their life from which they drew strength. The rest of the participants, while not wholly dependent on them, also emphasized the important role their pets played. They claimed that the pets provided a much-needed distraction, not only from the difficulties of life but also from the symptoms of their mental ailments.

From hearing voices to struggling with suicidal thoughts, it fell upon the shoulders of their pets to keep many of these patients from the edge, allowing them a semblance of peace and normalcy. Many of these patients admitted that the sense of responsibility for their pets gave them also help, this along with giving them some sort of control, security and routine in a world they considered chaotic.

In addition to achieving a sense of acceptance, mental illness patients seem to appreciate the unconditional support their pets contribute to their lives. While caregivers have been utilizing pets as recovery tools for mental illness patients for a long time, now it might be time to give them an even bigger push, especially considering all that they could do for those persons struggling with truly torturous mental ailments.