It’s no mystery that college life comes with a complete lifestyle change. These vary from the stressful transition period to the difficulty of figuring out classes to the addition of responsibilities as you try to be a functioning member of society.
Students suffering from psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety face even greater stressors from the everyday collegiate lifestyle. While these are difficult obstacles to overcome, the level of stress is even greater for those already struggling.
Many students do not know about possible treatments involving pets as a therapeutic stress relief for emotional disabilities.
Individuals with emotional disabilities now have this avenue for emotional support, which is protected by two federal laws. Accordingly, individuals suffering from diagnosed mental disabilities can register a pet as an “Emotional Support Animal” or ESA, and permissibly have those animals in dormitories or apartments.
The registration process and requirements are fairly simple. The owner of the pet must be diagnosed with an emotional disability by a mental health professional and the pet must not be a disturbance or danger to others.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sent out a notice in April reinforcing the requirement for all public universities to comply with the inclusion of emotional support animals in the Fair Housing Act.
This means that you could see a dog walking around Pritchard or pets in apartment complexes that have pet restrictions in the lease, such as Hunters Ridge or Collegiate Suites.
Accepting these policies regarding emotional support animals represents a conscious effort to raise awareness toward mental disabilities and to introduce new ways of helping those already suffering. These types of policies must be praised for at least addressing an issue that was previously ignored and underemphasized.
The usual pathway of treatment you expect from those suffering from depression or anxiety tends to involve medication or therapy.
It’s refreshing to see that our society has deemed mental health an important enough to issue to have established a treatment method based around the age old saying “dog is a man’s best friend.”
Tech already features dogs in the library during exam week to relieve the stress from midterms and finals, so the idea of emotional support animals can even extend to an everyday life.
The most obvious problem that could arise from the accepting emotional support animals would be people falsely claiming mental illness so they could have a pet. However, the fact that it must be documented by a mental health professional seems like enough of a deterrent; anyone who would feign depression or anxiety just to have a dog needs to have a moral compass realignment.
Mental health remains a critical issue in our society. Emotional support animals represent a shift toward proactive policies to help treat emotional disabilities.
It’s not as though emotional support animals are the cure for mental health, but they are nevertheless a step in the right direction. I would hope that our school, which prides itself on “inventing the future,” would adopt this progressive policy of helping those suffering with mental illness.