Everyone knows how stressful college can be. There are midterms, papers, and theses as far as the eye can see. Wouldn’t having a furry companion make it more bearable? Now, having a therapy dog on campus can be a reality.
Many college students suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. More and more students are anxious and lonely, which puts a strain on college counselors, who have a set budget and can only spend so much time helping their students.
Counselors are better equipped to help students who are failing classes or needing help deciding what courses to take in the future. Researcher Dr. Franco Dispenza says more students are going to their counselor “with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, pervasive mood disorders and considerable contextual strains that are happening out in the world, such as poverty and experiences of homelessness, as well as a history of medical issues and family health issues” (Georgia State University).
With their students’ mental health at stake, some universities are turning to therapy dogs to help their students cope. Carroll College, a small school in Helena, Montana, brings therapy dogs into their library during finals week, which helps their students to focus on their studies and decrease their anxiety.
Dr. Michelle Bjick performed an experiment at St. Catherine University, an all female college, in order to see how therapy pets effect the students’ stress and arousal levels. The participants were divided into four groups, with appointments set up.
At the time of their appointments, the participants went into one of three rooms and spent the entirety of their appointments petting a small rabbit. The study found that, of the thirty two participants, twenty nine reported lower stress levels. (Bjick) This quantifiable data shows that pet therapy is a viable solution to improve the mental wellness of college students.
This tactic does not need to be restricted to colleges. The University of Arizona brought a golden retriever and golden doodle to the law school library to help their students be at ease. There have been many case studies that prove that pet therapy is a cost-effective way to help students with mental illnesses to excel and feel a sense of calm. One educator partnered dogs with students with behavior problems, which helped one student to curb their need to steal (Anderson). As long as the students like animals, there should be no problem with expanding pet therapy in school.
Image via Wikimedia Commons (author: Akaporn Bhothisuwan)