AHS Weekly Wellness: Paws-itive Mental Health

Pets help us feel more connected, relaxed

Delray and his handler, Erica Olson, will visit EMS staff at their stations after traumatic calls. It’s part of Alberta Health Service’s new Psychological Awareness and Wellness Support (PAWS) program. (Alberta Health Services)

Pets can be the purr-fect therapist, offering nonjudgmental, unconditional love and support.

Animal-assisted therapy, and simply being with a pet regularly, has long been known to have mental health benefits.

Pet therapy visits are for many patients, an unexpected and happy event,” says Glen Gross, 63, an Alberta Health Services (AHS) volunteer who visits the Royal Alexandra Hospital with his best friend, Border Collie, Misha. “It is our chance to help patients temporarily put aside their worries.”

At AHS, there are 295 registered volunteers who join us with their furry companions through various pet therapy and pet visitation programs across the province. These unique volunteers offer a welcome distraction to those in care by providing an opportunity of friendly and comforting social interaction.

Studies have shown that petting an animal can promote relaxation by lowering blood pressure and slowing the heart rate – in any setting, whether in a hospital environment, or in the comfort of your home.

Check out some of our most gentle volunteers and their stories of bringing comfort and joy by visiting ahs.ca/whatsyourbalance, and join them now through June, to share how your pet supports your mental health by posting your photos and stories on social media using the hashtag #AHSwhatsyourbalance.