On October 10, World Mental Health Day is celebrated, promoted by the World Federation of Mental Health since 1992. In our country, studies suggest that 80% of homes have a pet (Aragunde et al., 2019). We would like to take advantage of this moment to discuss a topic that is so important and impacts all of us in Puerto Rico, how satos can become (or already are) providers of mental health and well-being.
Many people who are pet guardians mention with some fervor and full enthusiasm that their satos are an antidote to improve their days. Just arriving home after a long day of work and being welcomed and received with pure joy every time they see us (even if it has only been for five minutes) makes us feel that everything in our lives is okay. And that's what it's about. To have that unconditional support makes us feel that no matter what difficulties we are facing, everything will be okay. For many, they are the gasoline of love, kindness, and sweetness that fills our empty tank. This emotional mutuality and care strengthen aspects of our mental health and well-being in us.
Mental health should be discussed every day. Mental Health Month should still be a month when we raise awareness about existing problems and how they affect us around the world due to the prevailing need of these times. Various factors contribute to mental health, including the interaction of five key elements (positive emotion, commitment, relationships, meaning, and achievement). In light of this, how can we improve our mental health? There are many ways to do this. Since we'll be focusing on companion animals here, we should ask ourselves, are our pets managers of these five essential elements? Yes, of course.
Pets have the power to make a significant and positive impact on our emotional, psychological, and physical health. They create a comfortable and authentic atmosphere of joy, love, and profound connection, while also reducing stress, anxiety, and providing company, humor, and affection. As living examples of kindness, gratitude, and living life to the fullest, could we consider them as protectors and buffers during challenging times? Yes, indeed!
So, our satos (and any pet) have a healing and accompaniment effect on us. They help us stay more present in our daily lives, they invite us to try again the things in which we may have presented challenges, and they emphasize the importance of quality time. There is nothing worse for a satos than not giving him or her our undivided attention. They also teach us that we cannot miss the opportunity to show our loved ones our affection (if it were up to them 24/7). Every day, they teach us to be a better person, and that unconditional love can help us overcome anything. We can never forget that good things usually come from the collective (or on all fours), especially from our satos.
Úrsula Aragunde Kohl, Clinical Psychologist, Professor and Researcher UAGM, Gurabo
Cristina Adrianza, School Psychologist, Interamerican University- Metro