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JOBURG – World Suicide Prevention Day is marked on 10 September, and research has shown pets can reduce stress, anxiety and depression.

South Africa has one of the highest suicide rates in the continent ranked sixth according to the South African Depression Anxiety Group (Sadag), World Suicide Prevention Day is marked on 10 Septemeber. It raises awareness about mental health and how family and friends can be a supportive structure to those it may affect.

Marycke Ackhurst, a Hill’s pet behaviour expert, said that the emotional bond that pets can provide can make a real difference in the lives of individuals suffering from depression and anxiety.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report,  suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29-year-olds around the world and that 79 per cent of global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries.

Ackhurst said the figures are alarming. “These are frightening statistics and as a result, we are pleased to be able to work with individuals who provide emotional support through specially trained emotional support dogs.”

Magdie van Heerden, a veterinary social worker, said therapeutic animals won’t work for everyone. “Sometimes the individual may have a reaction, such as a smile and at other times there could be a change in behaviour or attitude.”

Not all animals can be used as a therapeutic tool, animals do experience stress too and their quality of life needs to be considered, Ackhurst added.

Research has shown that pets can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression, the research has even revealed that people with pets are happier, with improvements in self-esteem and improving social skills.

“Each case of depression needs to be treated differently and an emotional support dog can play a significant role in the treatment process, from providing cuddles on demand, stability and regular emotional comfort,” said Ackhurst.

For more information, visit the South African Depression and Anxiety Group website or contact Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567.

 Name of the Publication: Rosebank Killarney Gazette
Title of the article: Pets can be a therapeutic tool to help with mental health #WorldSuicidePreventionDay
Topic: Suicide
Date: 10 September 2019
Online link: https://rosebankkillarneygazette.co.za/261570/pets-can-therapeutic-tool-help-mental-health-worldsuicidepreventionday/

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