Dogs help people displaying suicidal behaviour, as they foster emotional bonds, reduce feelings of rejection and stigmatisation, and promote spontaneous communication.
Various researchers from the Faculty of Psychology and the Faculty of Medicine and Nursing at the UPV/EHU are for the first time designing, implementing and evaluating a treatment using animal-assisted therapy to prevent and reduce suicidal behaviour in young people. After undergoing the intervention, the young people displayed a reduction in suicidal behaviour and non-suicidal self-harm, as well as an increased willingness to seek help.
Youth suicide is a global public health problem. According to data provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the 15-29 age group after road traffic injuries, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. That is why reducing mortality by suicide is one of the WHO’s priority objectives.
Young people displaying suicidal behaviour are not always able to outwardly express their emotional distress or share it with family or friends, and often fail to seek help or distrust traditional treatments. “What we have observed is that including animals in the intervention enhances motivation and adherence to treatment. It also helps to establish a climate of security and trust as the animal acts as a social lubricant. The dogs we use are specially trained and prepared. They are docile, very sociable animals that display great flexibility when dealing with stressful stimuli. They are the perfect animals to help people displaying suicidal behaviour, as they foster emotional bonds, reduce feelings of rejection and stigmatisation, and promote spontaneous communication, thus promoting the effect of the treatment,” said the UPV/EHU researcher.