The benefits of having the company of a pet have been known for many years. They are able to improve the psychological and quality of life of their teachers. But emotional support animals go beyond that. They can be dogs and cats, birds, rabbits, turtles, fish and rodents, for example, guinea pigs, which help the patient to cope with some stressful situations.
Biotipo Clinic psychologist Gabriella Ciardullo explains that these animals support patients with depression, anxiety and panic disorders, for example.
“They are the ones that generate well-being, caress and protection for people with emotional difficulties, psychosis, and those that are good for the patient, significantly improve the level of mental health problem”, the expert says.
Meg, a 4-year-old Schipperke dog, and Mel, a rescued cockatiel, were two key players in the emotional development of Hevelin Leo, 36, after being diagnosed with autism nearly eight years earlier.
A resident of Brasilia says that already in adulthood the diagnosis was very complicated. “The spectrum caused me a lot of depression, but it took me a long time to get diagnosed. When I did, I went through a period of denial until I saw it and understood that I had to deal with it. need to learn”, he says.
This situation makes it more difficult for Carioca, who moved to the federal capital at the age of 4, to maintain relationships with others. Phone conversations or video calls are situations that stress him out a lot.
Meg helps her deal with these situations daily and helps Hevlin feel more emotionally independent and less pressured to interact and relate to other individuals.
“People assume that people on the autism spectrum have no feelings. I have feelings, but at times we can’t express it properly. I didn’t understand some of the affection issues, I had a great deal of difficulty”, they say.
“I needed people to interact with. Meg is very empathetic, plays and does everything to get you to pay attention to her. If she sees that someone is looking at me and there’s a possibility of conversation, she’s me.” It forces us to go after it”, he adds.
In turn, Cocktail Mail helped Hewlin organize her routine, focus on daily activities, and be more tolerant of situations that were until then uncomfortable, such as the noise of other people.
“I used to wake up in the afternoon and fall asleep after 4 or 5 because I like the absence of noise. Too much noise bothers me. But birds have a different routine, they wake up with the sun and sleep with the sun, and I had to adapt to take care of him”, he recalls.
The characteristics of the animals and the limitations of each patient must be taken into account so that the two live in harmony.
Hevlin says it took him about a year to choose Meg. He took into account the type of coat, the frequency of grooming the animal and its daily energy requirement.
“I needed an animal that was easily trained, that suited my routine, and I, adapted to his needs. It’s all because I can’t deal with sudden events. I needed animals like that.” who are a little more independent, because if I had to take my animal for grooming every month, I might not be able to do so in the midst of a crisis and my dog would get sick,” he explains.
External and unexpected changes can also be very difficult for people experiencing depression and animals can contribute to making adaptation to these situations more enjoyable.
About a year ago, social scientist and pet chef Larissa Andrade, 25, dropped out of her master’s degree due to the onset of depression, uncontrolled anxiety and panic disorder, and moved with her husband from Rio de Janeiro to Fortaleza.
“It was a delicate moment. I stayed away from my family and felt local differences. I found myself at a time when nothing was familiar other than my husband and dogs,” she says.
In the same period, he lost two of his dogs, Felicia and Frederico. “I felt a huge void inside me, which is too complicated to deal with”, he recalls.
The arrival of the guinea pigs Figaro and Ferdinando, both 1 year old today, and the dog Freud, 1 year old, gave a new light to the carioca, “a new snack”, in his words. They were joined by 5 and 2 year old dogs Alfredo and Fiorella.
“Both Piggy and Dog are the biggest reasons I get help to survive, try another day, move on and stay healthy. They need me and I appreciate the love and affection they give me. Grateful”, she says passionately.
support on the plane
According to psychologists, patients with psychiatric disorders can benefit from animal support, not only on a daily basis, but in any moment of acute stress.
“Whether it is a meeting, a lecture or a visit, there are day-to-day situations that challenge the patient’s emotional stability. And it is important to understand that the state of stress is different for each person. We cannot judge necessity. Therefore, the case should be evaluated and pointed out by a professional”, Ciardullo says.
In December 2021, 8-year-old Maria Eduarda, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), was prevented from traveling with hamster Ivy on a connecting flight from Campinas (SP) to Belgium.
On the recommendation of a psychologist, the girl has a hamster as an emotional support animal since June 2020. But the animal’s documentation when it was boarded in Florianopolis (SC) was disputed.
According to the National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), “the transport of animals is not handled by the ANAC, except for guide dogs”. Thus, the decision to provide the service is up to each airline.