The Healing Power of Pets

By Cecilia Oliveros, Community Resource Coordinator 

As mental health has become a focus in our society in the wake of a global pandemic, finding ways to effectively treat and manage it is more important than ever. Mental health issues affect people of all socioeconomic statuses (SES), however they affect those at the lowest SES the most. In fact, many studies show a direct correlation between the two. Those at the lowest SES are two to three times more likely to suffer from a mental health illness than those at the highest SES. Although research around the mental health benefits of companion animals is still in its early stages, there is already plenty of information to suggest that companion animals make a positive impact on those struggling with their mental health.

In a 2018 systematic review titled “The power of support from companion animals for people living with mental health problems,” they highlighted the findings across 17 studies. One of their findings was that pets provided a needed distraction and disruption from unsettling experiences and symptoms such as panic attacks, suicidal ideation and hearing voices. This is very important for individuals dealing with panic disorders, depression, PTSD and a myriad of other mental health conditions. There were multiple studies that confirmed pets help with a positive identity and sense of self with one owner reflecting, “My best quality is that I love animals and I take care of animals … other than that, I can’t think of anything real outstanding.”

Lastly, the study found that pets offer emotional work to their owners which is work that alleviates worry, provides comfort and mitigates against feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is especially helpful for those struggling with mental health issues who experience isolation at a higher rate than the general public. One owner remarked, “It is very important of people not to feel alone and isolated, and pets help you feel like you’re like everyone else. Not less than other people. My birds are very important to me, and I think other people with other pets feel that way, too.”

At Animal Friends, we deeply value the human-animal bond and include it as a core part of our mission statement. We know that bond can provide crucial emotional support to those struggling with mental health issues especially those already dealing with systemic poverty. Our Pet Retention team works hard to support these individuals by connecting them to affordable veterinary care at our Animal Wellness Center, needed pet food support through our Chow Wagon Pet Food Bank and other resource referrals for human service needs. We care about the person not just the animal and work hard to holistically help people and their pets!


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