John Chadwick had his demons, and he also had his friends. The 52-year-old had issues at times, but always found the strength to love his pets, two dogs, Theo and Tinkerbell, and a cat, Gizmo.
John had fallen on hard times and enrolled in emergency council accommodation, a service in the UK that houses the homeless or those in danger of losing their homes. They try to match those in need with homes that fit their needs, however animals are not viewed as a necessary requirement. They relocated John to a new community, but wouldn't allow him to bring his pets.
Despite making numerous friends, and being universally loved by those around him, being separated from his animals took its toll. John committed suicide at a local bed and breakfast and was found the following morning.
"He loved those animals so much. He gave them so much love," said Dee Bonnet, one of John's closest friends. "He needed them to wake up to and go home to at the end of the day. I knew he wouldn't be able to cope without them."
The idea that animals help with treatment of depression isn't new, and it's not just because they're cute. Cats, dogs, and even horses and rabbits, have been trained to help people suffering from depression. Animals don't need any special training to offer support though. The help they give is actually a biological response.
Petting an animal releases endorphins in the brain, the same chemicals released when having fun, laughing or going for a run. These "feel good" chemicals end up being a natural treatment to depression, which can be causes or exacerbated by chemical imbalances in the brain.
When you're too ill to even leave your house, a pet can give you the boost you need to get on with your day. Even beyond the chemical, having someone dependent on you gives many people the sense of purpose that they need to carry on.
Animals also help in addiction treatment. Studies have shown that time with animals helps reduce the stress that is commonly associated with recovering addicts. It also helps calm and reduce anger, both a common experience for people struggling with addiction.
As with depression, the act of nurturing something other than yourself is helpful. It allows a person to look past themselves, and put their energy into something other than the problems hanging over them every day.
When John couldn't take his pets with him, he was denied much more than just his furry friends; he lost his treatment.
"After John relapsed I got him a kitten called Gizmo and that gave him something to get up in the morning for," Bonnet told KentOnline. "A couple of years later I got the dogs. They became his family."
She received a text from John the day he died, he said he had had enough. She called for help, but it was too late. Now she's carrying on, adding meaning to John's passing.
"He had been crushed without his animals," she said. She wants to spread the word about the therapeutic importance of animals.
For John, losing his animals was one trial too many in a hard life. Others are at risk of losing their support system as well if the benefits of animals remains unknown. It's proven that pets can increase the quality of life for those with mental health issues, those seeking help with addiction, the elderly and even the terminally ill.
If you are struggling with depression or addiction you can reach out for help here:
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