Comfort Animals on Campus, Cont'd

A reader emails the hello@ address:

My son is at college after being treated for anxiety and depression. Like most pet owners, he found our cat to be a great comfort and the cat did lessen his anxiety. He didn’t take the cat to school because he’s in a small dorm room that the cat wouldn’t enjoy. It’s also against campus rules.

But I would like to see pets in campus owned apartments.

I don’t think of this as coddling. It’s far better than the pot and alcohol I used in my college years to cope with anxiety.  That’s how we anxious people dealt with it back in the “good old days,” when anxiety and depression were seldom diagnosed in college students. You think this was a better way to deal with it?  I’d rather my child have a pet.

Here’s a statistical snapshot of mental health on campus:

As we previously reported, ​depression and anxiety are the most common mental health problem for college students. More than half of students in a recent study of more than 100,000 students by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State reported they suffer from anxiety.

The number of college students with mental illness has also spiked - in 2010, national surveys showed nearly half of college students seeking counseling had serious mental illness. That was double the rate from the year 2000.

Additionally, a 2010 study from the American College Counseling Association found that 24% of college students seeking mental-health help in college were on psychiatric medication compared to 17% in 2000.

But can having a pet rabbit on campus really help?

Very uncertain:

Research on the therapeutic value of animals is limited. Some studies have shown that they can provide a short-term benefit, particularly in reducing anxiety and depression. A long-term therapeutic benefit, however, has not been definitively established by randomized control trials.