Emotional support animals are pets that help a person who’s suffering with a mental health issue to feel better. ESAs have become a major trend in the last few years, with both celebrities and laypeople all over the United States swearing by their effectiveness. Mental health professionals are now more willing than ever to recommend an ESA animal as treatment for their patients by writing an emotional support animal letter. But what factors have led to the surge in popularity of ESAs?
Mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety disorder, are more widespread in society today than ever before. In the United States, depression has reached epidemic levels, with an estimated cost of nearly $100 billion a year. The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey found that the number of people diagnosed with depression has increased by 450% since 1987. For every person who took an antidepressant in 1987, there are now more than five people relying on drugs to feel OK.
Modern society contributes to these soaring levels of depression in many ways. How we live today is making us sad. People are lonely. We live in an increasingly insular world in which people are so often glued to mobile electronic devices, and real, face-to-face communication has become a rarity for many. In their paper ‘Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades’, McPherson, Smith-Lovin and Brashears found that in 1985 10% of people had no one to discuss important matters with, but by 2004 the number had grown to 25%. We are social creatures at heart, and so loneliness can have a devastating effect on mental health.
The profits of 24-hour rolling news channels depend on how many eyeballs they can attract. And, as the old saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads!” We are constantly bombarded with bad, gory, and frightening news – tragedy sells. Free daily newspapers cram our brains with negative stories of heartbreak and death, and vie to attract our eyeballs with outlandish tall tales of celebrity shenanigans designed to offend and allure in equal measure. We watch and read this trash instead of sharing a few kind words and striking up a connection with the human beings around us. The supernormal stimulus of the gutter press makes us believe the world is an awful place, and this has a negative effect on mental health.
Anxiety is deliberately instilled in people by an advertising and TV industry that uses the cleverest of psychological tricks to convince you that you are a useless loser unless you have Cristiano Ronaldo’s abs, Kim Kardashian’s butt, Ed Sheeran’s singing voice, Pharrell’s party lifestyle and Paris Hilton’s money. They know that if they can stir up a feeling of anxiety and need in people, they can sell them all kinds of trash.
With the nation having fought two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the last 15 years, there is a large amount of veterans suffering with PTSD who are living lives of quiet desperation.
For all of these reasons, mental health is a huge issue in America at the moment, and because they are needed more than ever before, emotional support animals are becoming more and more of a trend.
In this age of loneliness, an emotional support pet can be a best friend for people who would otherwise feel very alienated and alone. The company of emotional support animals can greatly reduce the severity of depression – the loyal, loving enthusiasm of a support pet can go a long way towards brightening a depressed person’s mood and lifting their energy levels.
Anxiety disorders are also helped hugely by emotional support animals. The simple presence of an emotional support pet is very soothing and calming. An ESA’s loving company is great for getting an anxious person out of their head and into the present moment, and this alleviates anxiety in a big way.
With so many people today having sedentary jobs, depression, anxiety and various other mental health issues can be brought on by a lackadaisical and lazy lifestyle. Physical exercise clears away the cobwebs, gets the heart beating and lifts the mood, and is a great catalyst for meeting other people, so having an emotional support dog that needs walking every day is a big help.
In the age of “Me, me, me!” when we are constantly told “We’re worth it!” etc., we can become very insular and self-obsessed – unsurprisingly, being self-obsessed makes us vulnerable to disappointment, loneliness, anxiety and depression. A support pet will take us out of ourselves and force us to think about and care for something other than ourselves. Getting out of our own heads and becoming empathetic and giving is a great way to become less anxious and depressed.
So, for all the doom and gloom of America’s mental health problems, we now have an excellent new treatment that can greatly alleviate people’s suffering. Emotional support animals are no fad; they are a movement in the right direction and an invaluable weapon in the war against depression.
You may be wondering how to get an emotional support animal, or if you already have a pet, how to register emotional support animal. Luckily, emotional support animal laws have been changed, and now all you need is an emotional support animal certification from a mental health practitioner, and you can register your best friend as an official ESA.