There have been many articles written on the ways animals can help people with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. There is even a Human Animal Bond Research Institute! Check out the research summaries they have on mental health and trauma/PTSD.
My first awareness of the importance of pets to mental health came in 1992. I had a friend living alone on social assistance and struggling with her mental health. I encouraged her to get a cat and we found a free kitten: an adorable calico with a lovely temperament. I saw how their bond developed in the early months, but then we moved and eventually she and I lost touch.
Several years later I received an unexpected phone call from my old friend. The cat had recently died and she had tracked me down through mutual acquaintances to thank me. She told me the cat had literally saved her life: she had made it through periods of suicidality because she loved the cat, it provided comfort and unconditional love, and it was a vulnerable creature she needed to look after.
I always had pets as a child, but my first pet as an adult was a rescue dog I adopted because when I was alone at night I got very anxious. This was partly just my anxiety and partly a result of someone attempting to break in to my house late one night. Cindy was a Shepherd/Husky mix and remained with us for many years. I will always miss her.
In the past 10 years or so as my anxiety worsened, I adopted another dog and 2 cats. And a puppy for my daughter (the puppy grew up and moved away just as her person did). And a chinchilla who sadly isn’t with us anymore. I understand how animal hoarding develops. (There is a running family joke that I am a cat lady waiting to happen.)
The first cat, Ciate (aka OG Kitty) was a very small kitten when I got her. I was single and my daughter was rotating households as children of divorce do. Kitty and I bonded very deeply and to this day she is only happy when I am home. She likes my partner and his daughters, but she loves me.
Cassie is our Shepherd/Corgi rescue dog (Cochrane Humane Society) and she has been with us a little over a decade. Cassie is my constant companion in the garden and in the house. As I write this, she is a few feet away, curled up in bed. She’s my unofficial therapy dog.
Our latest addition is a long-haired Calico diva named Ivy. Ivy is another rescue we adopted from the Cochrane Humane Society last summer. She is quite wild at times, lots of fun to play with, an occasional cuddler and a constant flight risk.
I can’t imagine my life without animals in it. When I’m stressed, a few minutes petting a soft purring cat or a quiet walk with my dog is something I find immeasurably soothing.