News from the Western Cape

In March we had our first regional meeting hosted at Stellenbosch University. The guest presenter was Dr Jason Bantjes, a clinical psychologist and researcher. He presented on the preliminary research findings on research project conducted across universities in Western Cape. Caring Universities. The Project Caring Universities is undertaken by UCT and Stellenbosch University where they are investigating the prevalence of common mental disorders among undergraduate university students. The aim of this research is to learn more about the risk factors and trajectory of mental health disorders and to document and improve students’ support needs.

Therapy dogs on campus of Stellenbosch University!

Author: Asiphe Nombewu/ Corporate Communication

Apart from providing unconditional acceptance and love, human-animal interaction not only offers health benefits, but also psychological, social and emotional benefits. That’s according to Dr Marieanna le Roux, lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University (SU) and member of the Executive Committee of the non-profit organisation Pets as Therapy (PAT).

PAT organises therapeutic visits by pet owners and their dogs to retirement homes, frail-care facilities, special-needs schools, residential care centres and, of late, to the students of SU. Currently five different dogs are used. According to Le Roux, these visits are a source of companionship, support, comfort, pleasure, stress relief and stimulation for people with illness, people who are isolated or who are under pressure.

Most students who attend the sessions at the Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD) of SU every Tuesday reside on campus and miss their own dogs back home. “These sessions offer students the opportunity to touch and play with the dogs in an informal setting. For a short period of time they can spontaneously interact with the dogs and forget about the stress of the exams or any unhappy circumstances in their lives. This is one of the ways the CSCD is rendering services to students to enhance their wellbeing”.

Research done in the field of human-animal interaction has shown just how much value animals such as dogs might add to human lives. “While it’s not therapy as such, something certainly happens in a person when interacting with a dog. Students go through a lot during their time at university, and these visits help them cope with stress”Founded in 2001, PAT has more than 94 registered owner-and-dog teams who voluntarily visit more than 75 institutions nationwide. The organisation has branches in Cape Town, the Helderberg area, Worcester, Polokwane, Hermanus, George and Port Elizabeth.

For more on PAT, visit https://www.pat.org.za/ or contact Dr Marieanna le Roux at mclr@sun.ac.za. For more information on the services of the CSCD, you can visit www.sun.ac.za/cscd or contact Dr Munita Dunn-Coetzee at mdunn@sun.ac.za

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