Bark for a Break
Stress and anxiety levels on college campuses across America are at an all time high. However, as levels of stress and anxiety have gone up, campus resources designated to help students cope with this have failed to rise in return. A study from Eastern Washington University reveals that almost 50% of college students in America reported feeling overwhelming anxiety in the past year. Additionally, during the school year the average teenager reports higher stress levels than adults (Bethune, 2014). There is an obvious need for better resources across campuses to guide students through the stress of college.
Recently here at Skidmore, many people have been upset with the Health Center, saying that they have been turned away when they really needed help. Even when there have been events trying to help students, they have been overwhelming and disorganized. Various people have reported that after attending an event aimed at reducing stress and anxiety, the chaotic and hectic nature of the event left them feeling more stressed than they did before. We acknowledge that health centers on college campuses do not have unlimited resources or funding, however, the current circumstances demand that more action be taken in response to the epidemic that is stress and anxiety on college campuses.
As students ourselves, we understand how busy and overworked college students are, and how easy it is to come up with an excuse to not take the time to take care of your stress and yourself. There’s always homework or social commitments that may seem more important than addressing the toll a busy college lifestyle can take on a person, and thus, other obligations take precedence over self-care. Despite the undeniably busy lives we all lead, it is vital for students’ health that easy and accessible ways to decompress are provided.
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to cope with anxiety is the proven and relatively new phenomenon of dog therapy. Studies show that after completing dog therapy, participants reported lower acute distress, which was suggested to be long-term (Hunt & Chizkov, 2015). Additionally, in a different experiment it was found that those interacting with therapy dogs had significant decreases in depression, anxiety, pain, and pulse in comparison to those who had more traditional stress management (Nepps, 2014). Studies on dog therapy have promising results suggesting it is an innovative and game changing stress reliever in the world of anxiety and stress. Holistically, results indicate that dog therapy is similarly effective to more traditional forms of therapy, yet is more cost-effective, less time consuming, and has not been stigmatized. Therefore, our campaign, Bark for a Break, proposes that therapy dog events become routine on Skidmore’s campus, as well as other campuses across the country.
Bark for a Break plans to address the issues of stress and anxiety running rampant on Skidmore’s campus, as well as other college campuses nationwide. In order to attack this problem, we hope to implement regular therapy dog events on campus. Many studies have shown that dog therapy is as successful, if not more successful than other more traditional forms of therapy. In addition to its effectiveness, it is cost-efficient, accessible, and not time-consuming, which, we believe, makes it perfect for our target audience of college students. By bringing this issue to the attention of students and the administration, we hope to further the process of obtaining better resources for stress and anxiety on campus.
It can be extremely difficult for college students to admit that they are stressed and have anxiety because now is the first time in our lives that we are truly independent. Conceding “defeat” due to stress is something no college student wants to face, but regardless of whether or not the stress is acknowledged, the damage caused is still present. Although the poor resources on college campuses are unfortunate, without public conversation surrounding the issue, the administration providing these resources will never be fully aware of how salient the issues really are. We believe that creating an official college-based program will help to enable the conversation between students and the administration. Kent State University was one of the first institutions to establish a successful pet therapy program, and in the decade since, other major institutions like Yale University and UC Berkeley have followed in their footsteps (Anderson, 2015). Bark for a Break hopes to join this pack, and in addition to organizing therapy dog events on campus, we hope to facilitate conversation surrounding the well being of our community, as well as advocate for the needs of students on campus.
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