Let’s Talk ESAs

Let’s talk about emotional support animals (ESAs);

a companion animal that a medical professional has determined provides benefit for an individual with a disability.

Sounds like a guide dog right? How about a cat to calm, a dog for depression or an alpaca for anxiety? Why in the UK do we limit animals to only support those with physical disabilities?

In the US, the number of ESAs is growing steadily. Thousands of mental health patients have been able to survive difficult times with the support of ESAs. Currently in the UK there is no system to register ESAs or recognise the benefits they could have.

According to Kiri from Dogs for Depression “ The UK is light years behind the USA in terms of recognising the importance of assistance dogs and emotional support dogs for people suffering psychological conditions like depression, both legally and clinically. Today there is no way to register a psychological assistance dog in the same way you can for other disabilities and conditions – that’s just wrong.” Guide dogs are widely accepted and noticeable by their fluorescent harnesses in the UK. So why is it not the same for animals that help with mental health issues? Issues that take place in the most important organ of our body?

Research implies that mental health issues in the UK are rising and mental health services are struggling to provide effective and timely solutions. I know, I waited two months to see a counsellor by which time I felt completely different. An emotional support animal offers long-term support. Even now when I have a better hold on my mental health I will have a down day and my dog is right there next to me, reassuring me and keeping me company.

When I was at my worst I moved back home. Being at home made me feel safe and calm. I now look back and realise this was thanks to my dog, Lily, pictured above. She is a complete bundle of joy who, even at the age of 12, acts like a puppy.

Without even knowing it Lily was forcing me to look after myself. I had to get up in order to feed her, walk her and play with her. Lily also made sure that I never felt alone which is a harsh reality when you are battling depression. She would sit at my feet and cuddle up to me at night. Just having another heart beat next to me reminded me I was not alone. I talk more about other things that helped me in my blog about balance the scales. Why stop with mental health, ESAs could go as far as keeping the elderly company.

I truly owe so much to Lily for sitting with me through everything. Even when I had to take her to the vet she would lie down on my feet to reassure me.

It is brilliant in the UK how we are now starting to educate people more about mental health but are we educating them enough about the different ways to cope with mental health? Mental health is different for everyone so why should everyone’s’ treatment be the same? I really hope that as awareness is gained for mental health in the UK then the awareness for emotional support animals is raised also.

How can we change this?

Type into google “petition for emotional support animals in the UK” and you will find lots of rejected petitions. I have found one that you can sign if you believe in this cause…

https://www.change.org/p/make-emotional-support-animals-uk-legal

It is safe to say I learnt how to do life the hard way and I am still learning. I intend to share my experiences to hopefully help break the stigma surrounding mental health and help someone who feels alone.
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