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Faced with so much uncertainty every day it is understandable that many of us are finding ourselves in need of emotional support. Constantly worrying about the state of the world – from the cost of living, load shedding, droughts, floods, and the war in Ukraine, to strikes, protests and so much more – is having a direct effect not only on our emotional state but on those around us too. Pets have been known to help when feeling overwhelmed, depressed or suffering from stress and anxiety.

The most recent Mental State of the World report saw South Africa come in as the lowest-ranked country based on mental wellbeing, with a MHQ score of 46%. Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition says that this may not come as a surprise as many of us are trying to find the positive in every day. “World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on 10th September and we at Hill’s are shining a light on how pets can provide much needed emotional support.”

The report highlights that the mental wellbeing of young people is deteriorating around the world. One of the factors that the report says may be contributing to this is that young people are spending more time online at the expense of interacting with one another in person. This has been further exacerbated by the pandemic, where many children and young people were unable to attend school, university, college and their usual extramural activities and now find they have a new formed anxiety as life has returned to a sense of normality.

A dog or cat can play a significant role in providing emotional support and can make a real difference in the lives of individuals suffering from depression and anxiety by providing cuddles on demand, stability and regular emotional comfort. Research has also shown that people with pets are happier, interact more with others and have improved self-esteem.

“Pets are known to pick up on their pet parents' emotions and provide unconditional love and comfort often when humans just can’t,” says Ackhurst. “Having a pet can also give us a sense of purpose as walking, feeding, playing and pampering them gets you up and about, because your pet needs your attention and care.”

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.

For more information visit the Hill’s Pet Nutrition website

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