Pets can help owners cope with serious mental illness

Study finds that the companionship of pets play an important role in helping people manage their mental conditions.

© Ralf P at Flickr

In the study, published by BMC Psychiatry, the participants with serious long-term mental illness were asked to place the people from their social networks in three concentric circles, the circle closest to the centre representing their most important connections.

Findings of the study show 60 per cent of them placed their pets in the centre circle.¬†According to the NPR report, Helen Brooks, the lead author on the study said, “Many felt deep emotional connections with their pet that weren’t available from friends and family.”

People with mental illnesses often feel isolated with not many people around for support and comfort. Pets help them deal with this better and give them the affection without having the need to understand the mental illness, Brooks added.

One of the participants of the study talked about how his dog improved his social interactions. “That surprised me, you know, the amount of people that stop and talk to him, and that, yeah, it cheers me up with him. I haven’t got much in my life, but he’s quite good, yeah,” he said.

Brooks hopes that in the future pets are included in the care plan for people with serious mental illnesses.

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