Graphic by Lillie Busch
College can be a stressful experience, and one way that students can ease the tension of college, work and other real-life challenges is by owning a pet. However, having a dog or cat staying in the dorm is not an easy process.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, over 40 million people over the age of 18 struggle with anxiety. Meanwhile, a survey done by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors revealed 36.4 percent of students surveyed experience depression.
Different colleges have different rules regarding whether or not pets are allowed. At Southern Miss, owning an animal is only possible if it is registered as a service animal via the Americans with Disabilities Act. Alternatively, emotional support pets must be approved by the student’s doctor.
Service animals and emotional support animals perform the same function, but the difference is that a service animal has to be capable of performing at least one task for the owner. Plus, service animals can be trained to recognize when someone is under stress.
Over two dozen students have a support animal on campus. Pets, whether they stay at home or live in the dorms with the student, can be helpful for people who are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Stress and college go hand in hand, but studies have shown that owning a pet increases the rates of oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure and anxiety levels. Additionally, a pet such as a dog will motivate students to get out and exercise.
Although Southern Miss’ rules of owning a pet are strict, the rules should be changed so that it is easier for students to care for an animal in their dorm room.
College students are not kids anymore, and having an animal of their own would not only help them out mentally, but it would also test their skills as a responsible adult. After all, pets need to be fed and made sure they are happy, just like humans.
The size of dorm rooms is a factor to consider as well. Not everyone has the luxury of staying in an apartment, and dorms can be fairly small. Students need to consider how much room will be available if any.
For now, students need to have a registered service or emotional support animal if they want the chance to have a furry friend by their side.
Alternatively, the Student Government Association hosts a Mental Health Awareness Week during the fall and spring semesters. One of the things they do to provide students some psychological help is they bring out animals for the students to pet and play with. Nothing says adorable quite like a puppy.
With mental health becoming a bigger challenge for students with each passing year, owning a pet at home or on-campus can go a long way to helping them stay strong, mentally and physically. If Southern Miss wants to truly help its students, they might want to consider changing the rules regarding pet ownership.