Health

Pets can help the mentally ill

Pets can provide unconditional support for those with mental illness and help manage stigma, a study has found.

The main reason was that pets helped to "provide acceptance without judgment", said the study's lead author Helen Brooks from the University of Manchester in Britain.

For 60 per cent of study participants, pets played a central role in the social networks of people with a long-term mental health problem, reported the Hindustan Times.

Pets can also ward off suicidal tendencies or upsetting experiences, such as hearing of voices, by distracting their owners.

This was why they were considered particularly useful during a crisis.

Ms Brooks added: "Pets provided a unique form of validation through unconditional support, which they were often not receiving from other family or social relationships."

A participant in the study was quoted as saying: "I felt in a sense that my cat was familiar, in that he understood or was an extension of 
my thoughts."

Researchers suggest that pets should hence be considered a main source of support in the management of those with long-term mental health problems.

Despite the identified benefits of pet ownership, pets were not a part of care plans for those with mental conditions.

For the study, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, the team interviewed 54 participants, aged 18 and above, who were under the care of community-based mental health services and had been diagnosed with a severe mental illness.

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