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Study suggests pets should be integral part of mental health care

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Pets should be included in mental health treatment plan, study suggests.

New research finds pets offer valuable support that should be included by clinicians as part of patients' mental health plan of care.


In a small study, researchers looked at the impact of pets among people under mental health care for severe mental illness.

How pets help stigma of mental illness and more

Dr Helen Brooks from University of Manchester said in a media release: "The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgement."

They also found pets were valuable when it comes to managing crisis; providing validation and unconditional support that can be absent among family and friends.

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Having a pet nearby can be an instant source of comfort and support, but had not been considered as part of the participants' plan of care.

Pets as part of mental health care plan

The result of the finding that included 54 subjects led the researchers to suggest pets should be considered as part of the long-term management plan for those suffering from mental illness.

The study, published in the journal
highlighted some of the comments from the participants about how pets promote mental well being.

One respondent shared how her cat seems to be an extension of her thoughts and was "familiar. Another interview participant said her birds helped her hear their singing instead of "thinking about the voices".

Pets also help provide a social network for long-term mental health ailments. Sixty-percent of respondents said pets were the most important part of their social support system.