When you think of animals helping people you may think of service dogs for the blind or animals that help rescue people in dangerous situations. Sometimes animals serve us in an emotional way too. They can be our companions that help us though distress caused by mental health symptoms. These animals are known as emotional support animals. The most common animals are dogs and cats but people also have lizards, birds, horses, bunnies, and all kinds of different species. These animals may not have special skills like service animals but they comfort us and let us know that we are loved. Sometimes when you’re going through something hard with your mental health, having a companion by your side can improve your thoughts and feelings.
Although most support animals don’t have a set of particular skills to save you from a dangerous situation, they may still save your life. I have read countless stories where people say their pets saved their life because without them, they felt like they wouldn’t have had their mental health improve. Animals also distract us from mental health symptoms because you’re taking care of something other than yourself. When you are forced to take care of another life, it can drive you to take better care of yourself. When I have struggled with my symptoms of depression, taking my dog on a walk and getting out of the house helped me a lot. It allowed me to feel safe to leave the house because I had a companion and it allowed me to get a little exercise which is proven to boost one’s mood. Just petting your animal can boost your mood too. It fulfills a basic human need of love and caring for someone.
For me, having an emotional support animal is necessary for my mental health but it’s not for everyone. Sometimes it can be very difficult to take care of someone else when I am struggling with my symptoms of mental health. Having to play, walk, feed, and care for a pet can feel draining at times. Pets can be pretty expensive, as well. Food, toys, and vet appointments can add up and become costly. So having a plan of how you will be paying for these expenses will help with the shock of the cost of caring for a pet. That being said, I do think that having an emotional support animal has immensely improved my wellbeing and I am very thankful for my doggie. She helps raise my mood, comfort me, and gives me unconditional love but it has to be the right support for you. If you don’t feel like having a pet is right for you but you want to be involved with animals, volunteering at animal shelters could be just as rewarding and could still gain the benefits that animals can give.
Having an emotional support animal myself, I do believe in the power of their support. In my journey my dogs have been blessings. I have someone to take care of, to love and to be loved back. My dogs allow me the comfort of a companion that I don’t have to explain my hardships to but it feels like they somehow still understand and care for me. Its great coming home after a long day and having someone wag their tail and be excited to see me. It keeps me going on tough days. Although it can be difficult caring for and paying the expenses for a pet, I find the company to be very important part of my mental health journey and could be for yours too!