Pets often bring immeasurable joy to those who care for them, but their role doesn’t end there. Studies have shown that pet ownership can help the elderly, teach kids compassion, and improve the well-being of the whole family in households with autistic children.
"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 judgment," said lead author Helen Brooks, from the University of Manchester.
“Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which [the patients] were often not receiving from other family or social relationships,” Brooks said in a statement. She added that pets were also particularly useful during times of crisis.
"You just want to sink into a pit and just sort of retreat from the entire world, they force me, the cats force me to sort of still be involved with the world,” said another participant.
Pets' role in care plans
"These insights provide the mental health community with possible areas to target intervention and potential ways in which to better involve people in their own mental health service provision through open discussion of what works best for them,” she said.
Pets can be valuable in the management of mental illness and should therefore be brought up in discussions about care plans, Brooks and her colleagues concluded. Finding what works best for patients is key, and the study suggests that pets can provide a constant source of calm, support, and distraction for some individuals.
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