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Pets help with mental difficulties

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

People living with a severe mental illness say their pets are one of the most important aspects which helps them handle their complicated situation. In the study published in BMC Psychiatry which deals with the support of mentally ill, 60 percent of the people asked stated their pets belonged to the central circle of their support network and other 20 percent said they were important support.

Animals help people handle their feelings better. They make them not to focus on the symptoms of their illness and calm them down. Sometimes all it takes is everyday care of the animal, caressing it or a mere presence or proximity of a second creature. Moreover, pets get integrated to the network of person’s relationships which is often impaired for mentally ill people and they have troubles with establishing interpersonal relationships. These are important for human health.

The relationship of a person and an animal is not so complicated and it tends to be always positive. These relationships differ from those interpersonal in the fact that they’re our own choices contrary to our relationships with relatives, for example. Animals do not judge nor doubt us. This removes the burden from the negative feelings connected to the relationship, the lack of self-confidence does not hurt it and it has other positive aspects.

For mentally ill people, even getting out of bed in the morning and get outside among other people might be difficult. A dog will make them get out of bed as it has its needs. And pets also help patients to get back to their thorough daily routine – every animal needs to be fed every day, a regularly cleaned toilet and its hair needs care... We also have to take into account the fact that if an ill person loses his/her will to take care of himself/herself (it doesn’t matter if it’s due to mental or physical health), it’s risky for the pet to be only dependent on him/her. However, a person might get a new lease on life thanks to a pet.

Animals have definitely a positive influence on the mental health of people and it’s a shame that studies that deal with this issue are considered to be too trivial and they don’t get the attention they deserve. In my opinion, pets have a lot to offer and I personally see their positive influence basically every day. They help me to get rid of bad moods, they always come when I need cuddling and they make me get out of the sofa. What do you think? Can pets help to cure mental health problems?