THE BENEFICIAL effects of dog ownership to combat depression was highlighted on the BBC’s Breakfast show last Friday, as part of the programme’s feature on mental illness.
The segment opened with a short film about Marie Turner from London and her dog Buddy. Marie suffers from a depressive illness and her long-term partner recently walked out, causing her condition to worsen. However, she explained that Buddy has pulled her out of her depression a great deal.
"Just to have a tactile, sensitive dog to come home to, to care for, take for walks – it all helps so much," said Marie.
Maureen Hennis, Chief Executive of the charity Pets As Therapy was a guest in the studio, accompanied by a Border Collie PAT dog. Maureen outlined the work of PAT Dogs over the past 23 years and explained how PAT dogs and cats brought a lot of stimulation and happiness to people in hospitals and care homes.
"It’s been scientifically proven that simply stroking a dog reduces stress and blood pressure," explained Maureen. "Clinically depressed people often go into total isolation, taking no notice of what’s going on around them, but we have seen good results with PAT dogs bringing them out of themselves and helping to react."
Presenters Natasha Kaplinsky and Dermot Murnaghan were obviously taken with the whole concept, and went on to explain about a new scheme being launched by the NHS, which will see dogs become available on prescription to treat depression and obesity, as reported previously in OUR DOGS.
GPs in Lewisham, southeast London will give grants of £1,000 to pay for a dog, food and vet bills. The innovative scheme, which has been launched primarily in the London borough, is designed to encourage the new pet owners to take more exercise, as well to exploit the stress relieving effect that dogs have on their owners.
Ian Lowry of the Mental Health Fund was also a guest on the programme and said that he wasn’t sure if the scheme for buying pets would be cost effective, but was one of a range of therapy options, which included talking and sports.
The point was made that some people don’t like dogs and even have a phobia about them.
Maureen Hennis replied that PAT Dogs were currently working on a nationwide programme with dog phobic people to help them overcome their fears of dogs – yet another example of how versatile and useful PAT dogs can be.