Dogs have been allies of students in combating anxiety and stress in Chile.
On one of the campuses of the Catholic University (UC), the labrador Uva, 7, the golden Pepe, 7, and the mutt Chumi allow themselves to be petted by those who pass through the so-called Stress and Anxiety Free Zone.
“I could spend hours hugging the dog,” Teresita Valencia, 23, kneeling next to Pepe, told AFP. “I feel happy and relaxed.”
Trained, these pets provide emotional support and are used to cuddling and hugging.
The animals are part of a group from Fundación Tregua, which also works in hospitals, foundations for children with disabilities and nursing homes.
“Dogs like this job. They are bred to really enjoy the contact with people”, says the director of Tregua, Camila Arteaga.
At UC, visits help relieve students’ stress back to school after the pandemic. According to the news agency, this return has been marked by anxiety and violence in the country.
In the first month of returning to school, cases of physical and emotional abuse among students rose 22% from pre-pandemic levels, according to the Superintendence of Education.
“There is a very unbalanced psychological state in the country”, says Isidora Mena, psychologist and director of the School Coexistence Program at the Catholic University.
The consequences of the pandemic added to the tension inherited from the 2019 protests, when students clashed with police in Santiago in protests to demand improvements in education, according to AFP.
Studies have already pointed out the benefits of pets against loneliness, depression, anxiety and found that living with a pet is good for health.
Animal therapy is also often used after traumatic situations. Pets are used to working with people at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder and trained to work in hospitals and disaster areas.
Therapy dogs have already helped, for example, victims after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 – when three people died and more than 200 were injured –; after the 2017 Las Vegas massacre; visited victims of Storm Harvey, Texas, also in 2017; students from Raul Brasil school, scene of a massacre in Suzano (SP), in 2019, and comforted family members of victims of landslide in Florida, in 2021.
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