Emotional-support animals are necessary at NAU

Many people think mental health resources at universities are unlimited. Yet, 39% of college students experience mental health issues, as explained by nonprofit mental health awareness organization Active Minds, which focuses on the well-being of college students.

NAU offers campus mental health counseling, but the resources listed on the Campus Health Services website suggest these services do not extend very far. Emotional-support animal evaluations and letters of support are not listed on the website. 

The benefits of having an emotional-support animal are abundant. These pets can alleviate symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, agoraphobia and other issues, according to ESA Doctors, a website that connects people to licensed ESA doctors to make the process smoother.

Transitioning to college life can be difficult. This challenge becomes even more to handle for those battling mental illness. A study done by the National Alliance on Mental Illness states 64% of college students who drop out did so because of mental illness.

NAU should offer more on-campus support, especially because it can be difficult and expensive to search for professionals off campus. 

Many people with mental illnesses are recommended medication to allow them to live their lives without many limitations. However, these medications often come with side effects. 

Emotional-support animals allow some people to lessen or completely stop their medications. For example, veteran Chris Jenkins was able to rely on his therapy dog rather than his post-traumatic stress disorder medications. Jenkins even found his dog more effective, according to nonprofit health news site MedShadow.

It is exciting to see there are alternatives to medication, especially given the varying side effects patients often experience. However, there are very few alternatives offered through NAU Counseling Services. This lack of resources takes away the convenience of students knowing they have multiple treatment options through their school. 

When visiting the campus health offices, you can only be prescribed medication through the doctors or referred off campus for any issues they do not deal with. I find it highly unfortunate that NAU Counseling Services only offers these limited treatment options, especially when a patient may have already tried medication and experienced side effects.

The university should be responsible for ensuring it is helping students as much as it can, including providing proper mental health resources. NAU may not see these animals as a necessity, but they are often an effective choice to aid a student’s mental health. 

Universities should provide this resource if a patient feels it is best for their treatment.

This is a challenging task if a student does not have medical insurance or cannot find a provider who accepts their insurance. Schools need to take all of these factors into consideration when deciding what they will and will not provide for mental health services. 

Even just the addition of one person qualified to write emotional-support animal letters on campus would make the lives of students much easier. Students would be more likely to feel their school is supporting all of their mental health needs.

Not only does this help the students, but this would also help universities determine whether or not they are receiving fake emotional-support animal letters from students who just want to bring their childhood pet to college.

NAU provides nearly everything a student needs at Campus Health Services, such as getting blood drawn and COVID-19 testing. Mental health counseling should also strive to cover all resources. 

As someone who has utilized both health and counseling services at NAU, I have experienced the difference between the two. Through the health office I have had fast, consistent appointments, blood work, referrals and more. Yet, counseling services left me feeling as though I cannot get effective help from them, or nearly the same amount of services the health office provides.

It would be an amazing and necessary change for NAU to begin making the process of qualifying an animal to provide emotional support an easier process.

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