Blog by Erin Ross: http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/12/09/504971146/pets-help-people-manage-life-with-serious-mental-illness
Any pet owner will tell you that their animal companions comfort and sustain them when life gets rough. This may be especially true for people with serious mental illness, a study finds. When people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder were asked who or what helped them manage the condition, many said it was pets that helped the most.
"When I'm feeling really low they are wonderful because they won't leave my side for two days," one study participant with two dogs and two cats, "They just stay with me until I am ready to come out of it."
Another person said of their pet birds: "If I didn't have my pets I think I would be on my own. You know what I mean, so it's — it's nice to come home and, you know, listen to the birds singing and that, you know."
Many people with serious mental illness live at home and have limited contact with the health care system, says Helen Brooks, a mental health researcher at University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and the lead author on the study, which was published Friday in the journal BMC Psychiatry. So they're doing a lot of the work of managing their conditions.