That’s right. This Wednesday, January 27, York will welcome four very distinguished guests to Keele Campus. From 12-1:30pm, four therapy dogs — Jazz, Aspen, Asha and AJ — will be lending their presence to an initiative designed to help reduce stress among students, and to draw attention to the multiple ways in which the University is supporting the mental health of the larger York community.
Whether you’re prepping for upcoming midterms, preparing to graduate or simply need to chill out, pay a visit to these specially trained four-legged helpers in the Scott Library Atrium and Vari Hall’s RED Zone; you’ll likely come away with a smile.
While the dogs are a lot of fun, it’s important to remember that their visit forms part of a series of events on Wednesday organized by York’s Mental Health & Wellness Committee to mark Let’s Talk Day. The day, recognized and celebrated by our university for the past four years, highlights mental health as a vital component of any successful work- or school-related venture and strives to help eliminate stigma around mental health challenges. Instead, the focus is on resources, dialogue and opportunities.
Beside the puppies, a whole program has been created to get the York community literate about mental health. Between 11am and 2pm, the Jack Project and Active Minds, two student-centred organizations dedicated to transforming the conversation about mental health and suicide, as well as Health Education & Promotion, will set up information tables in Vari Hall. Drop by to learn more or have a chat. If you have ideas about how to make York University a healthier place, you are encouraged to virtually drop by Mental Health & Wellness’s Share Your Voice page. Although official consultations are now closed, a linked form invites you to make suggestions on how to improve mental well-being at York. It’s an opportunity none of us should pass up if we have any constructive thoughts on the matter. Let’s Talk Day at York is of course not just for students. Faculty and staff will have their own events to attend to make sure they are equipped to join the debate and make a difference.
So our canine friends from St. John Ambulance will serve at least a double purpose tomorrow: they’ll likely put a smile on your face when you come by to pet their heads, but, maybe more important, they’ll also make you think about what they stand for, learn about some programs at the University in support of mental health and make you consider how we, as a community, all have a part to play in each other’s well-being.
Some research does connect the use of animals with long-term mental health, and anyone who has ever owned a pet can definitely relate. I remember back in high school, it didn’t matter what kind of day I had had. I could have fallen down all three flights of stairs, written my Spanish test in French by accident and then set off the fire alarm with my backpack strap: when my dog slid across the floor to greet me at the door as I came home, it was hard not to rejoice.
Beside temporary stress relief, service dogs have been associated with the longer-term alleviation of anxiety. As the recent York graduate Devon MacPherson, who used a service dog through parts of her undergraduate studies, explained to the CBC in a recent interview,
For people with anxiety, changes in the environment or doing things differently can be shocking. When I have Barkley [her service dog] with me, it’s something that’s consistent no matter where I go.
All in all, Let’s Talk Day should be great. Come for the puppies, but stay for the information and leave being part of the discussion. Hope to see you there!
And, yes, you may fully expect a purely puppy photo post in the coming week as a recap.