Get mental health help from your four-legged friends

High school students should turn to their pets to improve their mental health


By Damara Stevens

Three-year-old beagle mix Summer uses her dog kisses and tail wags to make her family less stressed and bring smiles to their faces.

Damara Stevens, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

It is no question that high school students have a lot on their plate. It can be easy for them to get overwhelmed and let their mental health take the backseat while they focus on other aspects of their life. This leads to many high school students’ stress levels going through the roof. I know many of my peers who choose to ignore their mental health problems by distracting themselves with social media. However, I believe that more students should turn to their four-legged friends for support when it comes to mental health.

As a high school student, I see myself and many of my peers struggle with handling stress and managing our mental health. In a study done by the the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, it was found that student anxiety has increased by almost 41% since 1985. This comes as no surprise, seeing as high school students are expected to maintain good grades, work, be involved, stay healthy and spend time with family, all while enduring the ups and downs of teenage life.

When I come home after a long, stressful day at school and work, my three-year-old beagle mix named Summer greets me at the door. She barks at me and makes sure I feel loved. I can’t help but pet and play with her for a few minutes before I get started on all the homework I have. I never knew that Summer did more than just make me smile.

It has always been said that dogs are man’s best friends, but few people know that it goes deeper than that. According to HelpGuide, pets have several benefits when it comes to one’s mental health. Simply spending time or playing with pets can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, chemicals that relax one’s body. Having a pet even correlates to having lower blood pressure in stressful situations. In a survey done by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, it was shown that 74% of pet owners saw an improvement in their mental health since owning a pet.

Now, I know all that Summer is doing for me when I get home from school. It’s more than a couple of giggles and a smile. I believe my peers would benefit from not ignoring their pet’s help when it comes to mental health. Instead of distracting themselves from their stress, students should take advantage of the love they receive in the form of barks and tail wags.

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