May is Mental Health Awareness Month,
a time for all of us to talk openly about the realities of mental health, support those in our life who struggle, and take active steps to improve our own mental well-being.
At Anderson Humane, our favorite way to boost our mental health is spending time with animals. While many people stumbled upon this truth accidentally during covid lockdowns, when spending more time with their pets was a needed comfort, we’ve long appreciated the way animals make us better, healthier people.
It’s true! Taking your dog for a walk, snuggling with a cat, caring for a guinea pig – all of this is proven to help your mental health. That’s one of the many reasons we’re passionate about bringing people and animals together for good.
“Our awareness of this health benefit inspired us to expand our mission statement in 2019,” said Beth Foster, Anderson Humane’s President and CEO. Now, in addition to caring for animals, we also work to promote meaningful human-animal connections. “I want Anderson Humane to be a connector, to facilitate people connecting to animals in any way they can – for a brief time or for a long-term relationship with a pet.”
Anderson Humane mission: To champion the welfare of animals and improve the lives of people through programs that create mutually beneficial human-animal connections, inspiring kindness and respect throughout our community.
Animals and Your Mental Health
The numbers are sobering. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five U.S. adults experiences mental illness each year, but less than half of them receive treatment. When it comes to serious mental illness, one in 20 U.S. adults is impacted, and less than two-thirds of them receive treatment.
But, when you add an animal to the equation, the numbers are much more hopeful! A whopping 87% of pet owners say they have experienced mental health improvements from pet ownership, according to a study by HABRI (Human Animal Bond Research Institute). Studies throughout the world have shown that the presence of an animal in a person’s life has reduced stress, eased loneliness, provided a sense of purpose, offered comfort, and generally supported a person’s well-being.
“We’ve all experienced that moment when we’re sick and our dog snuggles up next to us, instinctively knowing we need the extra comfort,” Beth said. “And it helps!”
The fact that one in five pet owners report that a doctor or therapist recommended pet ownership for their health shows that the medical community is starting to widely recognize these mental health benefits as well.
Leverage the Benefits
Anderson Humane offers many ways for you to leverage all the health benefits animals can bring to your life. First and foremost is adoption. If you don’t already have a pet, consider bringing home one of the many dogs, cats, or small critters (birds, rabbits, lizards, guinea pigs, and more) Anderson Humane has available for adoption. Adopting is a win-win – a homeless animal gets a forever family and you get all the health benefits this furry friend brings to your life!
If you can’t adopt at the moment, you can still regularly enjoy the presence of animals by volunteering. Anderson Humane always needs volunteers to walk our shelter dogs, engage with our adoptable cats, and many other activities that put you in the proximity of animals. Likewise, attending one of our guided nature hikes or signing your kids up for our Summer Critter Camps provides the calming, healing benefits of animals – all the better in their natural habitat!
Several Anderson Humane programs introduce the healing presence of animals to people who otherwise wouldn’t get that experience, such as our Healing Paws therapy animal program. “Healing Paws spreads the universal love of animals to places where people often can’t have animals but love them or need them,” Beth said. This program certifies qualified comfort animals and facilitates their visits to senior centers, schools, and other places where people need the healing presence of animals.
“Many of our community engagement programs bring people together with animals for a short time so they can experience the emotional and physiological benefits,” Beth said, adding that many of these programs focus on people who can’t have pets or who don’t often have the opportunity to get one, such a seniors and veterans. We also foster pets for people entering homeless or domestic violence shelters, ensuring that those important bonds remain intact.
“Anderson Humane is a connecting force – because those human-animal connections make us better people,” Beth said. “And better people are the building blocks of better communities.”