There is a lot of confusion and misinformation in today’s society about mental health and mental health disorders, but when looking at statistics, the numbers are alarming.
Consider for a moment that:
- One out of seven U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years had been diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
- An estimated one in four (26%) American adults live with a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder affects 7.7 million U.S. adults, or 3.5% of the population.
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States every year.
One thing that has helped those with mental disorders tremendously are emotional support animals or ESAs. In a country where nearly 30% of the population lives with a diagnosable mental disorder, it’s important to note that emotional support animals play an important role when it comes to mental health.
An emotional support animal is any animal that helps its owner in dealing with or overcoming a specific disability. This is different from a service dog because an ESA is not trained to offer specific assistance to accommodate a disability.
If you’re looking into getting an ESA, here are five benefits they provide.
- Calm on planes: In 2015, a major airline carried more than 24,000 emotional support animals, according to the International Air Travel Association. For people diagnosed with a mental disorder, having their emotion support animal with them during a flight can be invaluable. For many people, traveling, whether by plane or some other means, isn’t an easy experience. Having an ESA on a flight helps a person stay focused on their pet and off of their anxiety about flying.
- Unconditional love: Whether you’ve got a regular pet or an ESA, one of the biggest benefits to having a pet is unconditional love. In fact, 74% of those surveyed reported mental health improvements from keeping animals as companions. Having the unconditional love of a pet can help individuals feel love where they might have a hard time finding it otherwise from family, friends, etc.
- Pairing With Other Treatment: Another benefit of ESAs is that they can be integrated with certain treatment models. For whatever treatment plan a person has for their disorder, they may be able to incorporate a pet. One example is using the pet within the Trauma Resiliency Model, which helps people bring themselves down from emotional highs or lows.
- Regulating feelings: Depending on your diagnosis, dealing with a disorder, day-to-day, even moment-to-moment can be very difficult. An emotional support animal can be there to help a person regulate their emotions whether it’s reducing anxiety or improving one’s mood. A pet is in need of constant attention and having it there can cause a person’s feelings to stabilize if they’re focusing their attention on their pet.
- Chemical benefits: Having a pet, especially a dog, leads to increased levels of dopamine, which produces good feelings.
If you’re in need of an ESA like a dog, when it comes to registering a dog, you’ll need an ESA letter. What is an ESA letter? It’s a letter from a licensed medical professional that states your mental diagnosis and need for an ESA.
An ESA letter for registering a dog entails:
- A mental health professional’s signature and letterhead as well as information about their license
- Confirmation that an ESA is a needed part of your life
- A “prescription,” that is, a recommendation for an ESA
- A description of how the animal will help your condition
- Details about you including your name and details about your pet
If you’re registering a dog, you can apply for an ESA dog letter online, but look for red flags such as:
- Low cost letters: Legitimate emotional support dog letters for registering a dog are issued by licensed professionals and cheap alternatives might be signed by less than reputable people.
- Instant approval: You can’t be instantly approved for a letter because professionals need time to evaluate your needs.
- Registration: A big thing about ESAs is that they don’t have to be registered, but registering a dog with a legitimate ESA letter will ensure you can fly with your pet or take it into apartments if you rent.