Opinion: Emotional support animals benefit students

Opinion: Emotional support animals benefit students

For college students with mental illness, life can be extremely stressful, and the need for emotional support animals is real and should be respected.

For these students, having emotional support animals can mean having a friend in times of loneliness and a distraction while facing a sea of horrifying thoughts.

Even when coming from a place of support or genuine concern, students without emotional support animals should avoid asking students with ESAs why they have them. It may seem like a casual conversation starter to some, but essentially it is like asking someone what type of mental illness they have and how it affects the way they live their daily lives, which is a deeply personal question.

Students with mental illness should not let anyone else’s beliefs about emotional support animals stop them from getting the therapeutic help that they are entitled to.

According to the American Psychological Association, a 2013 survey found that 21 percent of students who visited their on-campus counseling centers had severe mental health concerns while 40 percent had mild mental health concerns.

People with emotional support animals are valid in their psychological needs and in their healing process. A person with a mental illness needing an emotional support animal is not the same as someone without a mental illness being allowed to have a pet on campus. While all pets may provide emotional support, the role that ESA’s play in the lives of their owners is vital to their health and sometimes to their survival.

It is also important to keep in mind that any domesticated animal can qualify to be registered as an emotional support animal, according to EmotionalPetSupport.com.

According to ESAdoctors.com, people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, personality disorders and stress disorders qualify to have emotional support animals. Once diagnosed with one of the conditions, students can request an emotional support letter from their healthcare professional. They can then go online to register their emotional support animals at esaregristration.org.

Students who desire emotional support animals must also go through legalities outside of KSU and are normally required to have documentation from a licensed physician or mental health professional.

Because this process is very involved, it is important for students who need emotional support animals to register and apply for them to live on campus as soon as possible.

According to KSU’s emotional support animal policy, students are allowed to have ESA’s in their housing complex on campus but are “generally not allowed to accompany persons with disabilities in all public areas of Kennesaw State as a service animal is allowed to do.”

Students must go through an approval process with student disability services which entail the SDS assistant director and/or director reviewing documentation related to the particular student’s emotional support animal.

After reviewing the documentation, the director(s) will make the decision and communicate with members of residence life. KSU students with ESAs may be limited in their housing options as other students who live on campus might have allergies or animal fears.

ESAs exist to better the lives of their human companions, and the best way to help them do so is to treat students with ESAs with respect.

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