Could Furry Friends Help IHS Students?

Shannon MacDonald, Journalist

During the school year, high school students often struggle with their mental health. It could be stress from school, sports, friendships, low self esteem, anything that could be making them feel low. Sometimes, they experience mental health issues simply because they are busy teenagers. These years are hard for most people because of change and the amount of things they have to do each day. At IHS, students have access to a great guidance department that will help them with anything they need. But what about having simple devices to boost their mood throughout the day? For dog lovers, therapy dogs may be the answer. 

Therapy dogs are dogs who often volunteer at places like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. They provide comfort and affection for those who might need it. In 2019, the National Institute of Health found in a study that dogs present in a classroom promotes a positive mood among students and provides stress relieving effects on the body. Therapy dogs are known to help small children to elderly people, meaning that they help people of all ages. When I asked about her thoughts on therapy dogs coming to IHS, guidance counselor Mrs. Powers said: “I think they would help people. I know a lot of colleges actually have therapy dogs that they bring in before final exams.” Therapy dogs at IHS would provide a healthier, more positive environment for staff and students. 

Senior Faith Campanello has seen that “There’s a lot of depression [and] anxiety, most of which isn’t really talked about. During midterms and finals, it is definitely a time where mental health plummets for a lot of kids due to all the stress.”  Especially during times where kids get extra busy; it is important to have an outlet for everyone to use. Everyone experiences heightened levels of stress and anxiety during midterms and finals, so there should be more support during these times in order to help students. 

Therapy dogs do sometimes come to IHS. Mrs. Chang the librarian has therapy dogs come in during Friday R blocks occasionally. But, some people have music classes during Friday R blocks or have other commitments. These people are not able to go and see the dogs if they wanted to. I am one of these people who would want to see them in order to relieve some stress, but cannot due to commitments. This sparks the idea that there could be more opportunities where these dogs could come in. 

“[Ms. May] has this idea of doing a grant to actually have a full time therapy dog that would come to school with her every week. She has done some research around that. Recovery High School has a dog that wanders the hallways; we would love to have something like that here. We would have to go through the hoops for that and figure out the rules and regulations,” says Mrs. Powers, when I asked about giving students more opportunities to relax with furry friends. Many colleges and high schools have full time therapy dogs, so why can’t we? It is in the realm of possibility for Ipswich High, and some staff are looking into it. 

Of course, therapy dogs do not replace therapy and counseling. They provide significant amounts of comfort to many people, but you cannot tell them your life problems and expect them to come back with expert advice. If you are struggling with mental health and want to talk to someone, please seek help from a trusted adult. Mental health is as important as physical health. If you are not feeling good in your head, then you might not feel good in your body, and vice versa. It is okay to feel bad, and it is okay to ask for help in order to get better.