Animals Can Help Teens’ Mental Health


Rees Schellstede, Author

Anatole France, a French poet, journalist, and novelist, once said, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Animals are a crucial part of life. Whether in times of struggle or just the opposite, animals like your cat or dog can provide a deep connection and love that is unique and beautiful.

Approximately one in five teens from the ages of 12 through 16 struggle with at least one or more mental health disorders, according to Principles Academy for Adolescent Wellness. These disorders can affect how teens live every day and their overall well-being and health. How do we get through these mental health struggles?

Well, according to several articles from News in Health, a publication of the National Institutes of Health, the presence of animals and pets can increase endorphins and a joyful mindset, decrease teen loneliness, and provide a form of social support and connection. 

Pets can also give teens a reason to keep living and a purpose to fulfill. These connections can save someone’s life. Often when someone is struggling with suicidal thoughts, the thing that can keep them holding on to life is a connection and dependence on someone or something. Getting a pet during a battle with mental illness or with hormonal and physical changes can be life-saving.

When interviewing students around the school who have pets, a variety of answers were given, mostly centering around how animals can help.

Sophia Hickle says, “Walking every day is good for you, and my dog makes me do it. My cat gives me unconditional love, and they also give me responsibility. I know no matter what I have something to rely on.” 

Some mental illnesses make it difficult for teens to be responsible and provide for themselves, but having a bond with a pet can help with motivation as well as responsibility. The pet can create jobs that aren’t overwhelming like school and other activities. “My animals keep me happy and active,” says Nicole Sallee. 

Francesca Stern says, “My three cats comfort me when I’m feeling sad and keep me from feeling too anxious.” 

However, Ruby Sallah says, “My dog doesn’t help my mental health. It literally ate my homework.” 

Pets are a part of many families and are often part of our support system. As the philosopher Martin Buber said, “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”

So how can we really make a change in our mental health? According to Allison Matos from the Long Island Press, “With an open heart and open mind, [we should] head out to a local shelter or rescue and adopt a new best friend today!”