Emotional Support Animals

POSTED ON 07/09/2019 IN Emotional Wellbeing

This week I watched a short video about a man called Mike who has an emotional support animal (a cat named Pixie) and I learnt a bit about how having an animal can help someone who has a mental illness. It has inspired me to read more about how emotional support from an animal can help people. The video was published on the BBC’s website and a link to it can be found in the references below.

An emotional support animal is a pet that is needed for a person’s ongoing mental health treatment by a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, psychologist, or any licensed mental health professional, as part of that person’s ongoing treatment programme which is designed to bring comfort to them, and to minimise the negative symptoms of their emotional or psychological disability. Mental health conditions that would lead to a diagnosis of a person to have an emotional support animal as a requirement are depression or another mood disorder, anxiety (specific or generalised), panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, and any psychological disorder recognised by the UK Health Department.

An emotional support animal must be registered, and they can wear a special vest or badge, but permission must be granted by any places they enter as, unlike service animals such as guide dogs, in the UK they currently do not have the same legal rights. Therefore, businesses can refuse the animal’s entry or ask the owner to leave their premises. From looking at this topic, I can see that people are trying to make it so emotional support animals have the same rights as service animals in that there are no restrictions to where they go. We’ll just have to watch this space to see what happens with that.

In the video, Mike says that living with a mental illness does not make you crazy, but it makes you see the world in a different way, and I think that is such a great description. Mike also talks about how people talk to him about their own experiences with mental health and mental illness because when they ask him why he has a cat with him, the conversation is then on the subject and they feel more open to talk about it. Like with lots of things in life, the power of talking about things can’t be appreciated enough, and I think this is another example of that.

I had recently read about people talking about how pets can provide emotional support and in some cases give them a reason to get up in the morning. Until I saw this video I hadn’t realised that emotional support animals can actually be recommended and registered. I personally hope that they eventually do have same rights as service animals, who do brilliant work with people who have disabilities. If this does happen, I suppose this could be seen as another step in the right direction for physical health and mental health being seen in the same way within society.

Sarah Keeping MBPsS MSc PgDip GDip BA (Hons)

Follow Sarah on twitter at @keepingapproach