Pets play an important role in mental health support

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10th of September is World Suicide Prevention Day

If one thing is unanimous in 2020 it is that Coronavirus has affected all our lives in one way or another, and sadly some more drastically than others. As World Suicide Prevention Day is recognised on 10th September, the seriousness of this pandemic’s impact on the mental health of all individuals should not go amiss.

Recent research in the UK revealed that the number of people suffering with depression has almost doubled during this time. Hill’s Pet Nutrition has always recognised the important role that pets have in helping people who suffer with mental health problems. “During the pandemic we have consistently provided South Africans with tips and information about how their pets can assist them in getting through these uncertain times and providing emotional support to the whole family,” says pet behaviour expert Marycke Ackhurst from Hill’s.

The well-being of many individuals has been impacted over this time, with an increase in feelings of stress and anxiety. The UK survey showed that 84.9% of respondents were feeling this way. Ackhurst says that she believes that the situation in South Africa would not be vastly different, with people who previously may not have suffered from depression or anxiety, facing a different reality now.

There is no doubt that pets are great companions. They help their parents to create a routine and can also have a calming effect, whether it just be by sitting stroking them or playing with them. Dogs can also help with exercise which is not only good for the pet, but also beneficial to individuals suffering from depression, anxiety or stress. “We know through extensive research, that has been conducted over the years, that cat parents experience an increase in their well-being and are better able to cope with everyday life, as a result,” says Ackhurst.

Another interesting and worrying statistic that the recent UK survey revealed is that there was an increase in depression across all age groups. However, the greatest increase was among those aged 16 to 39, with an increase from 11% to 31%.

The stigma associated with mental health is constantly being tackled with many local and international celebrities, including Trevor Noah, K Naomi (Keitumetsi), Chrissy Teigan, Shawn Mendes, Prince Harry, Dwayne Johnson, Kendrick Lamar, Billie Eilish, all speaking up about their personal struggles.

Individuals who may require emotional support are encouraged to contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group or the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.

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