Oct 302006
 
Authors: Amy Robinson

Four-legged friends can also help combat mental illness, according to Active Minds, a student group that wants to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

To prove it, they brought some furry bundles dressed in costumes to campus Monday.

The group sponsored the first annual “Doggy Delirium” on the Natural Resources Lawn.

“We are trying to increase awareness about the pet bond and the benefits of owning a pet,” said Tracy Ryan, Active Minds vice president.

Ryan attended the event with her 8-year-old Chinese pug, Quasimodo. The costumed bat snorted and wagged his tail as he eagerly greeted people passing by.

“I’ve always been an animal lover,” said Ryan, who has three dogs and does doggy foster care.

She added that her pets have always been there for her during rough times. Ryan said they are her family while she is across the country and away from home.

“They are non-judgmental. It’s nice to come home to a wagging tail, someone who’s happy to see you and gives you kisses,” Ryan said. “If you’ve had a bad day, they cheer you up.”

The graduate student, who is earning her master’s in agricultural extension education, said pets also serve as a fun, non-threatening way to help people learn more about Active Minds.

Members of the Larimer Animal People Partnership also participated in the event. The organization brings certified therapy animals to the community.

Sally Forman works with LAPP. She is the owner of a 15-year-old Chihuahua-terrier mix named Sprout and two Papillions, Gizmo and Mindy Sue. Forman visits nursing homes and schools with her furry friends.

“Animals provide unconditional love,” Forman said. “They are really adept at reading (people’s) vibes.”

Connie Fredman, another member of LAPP, echoed Forman’s sentiments about animals. She owns several animals including two dogs, a cat and two horses. Fredman takes her therapy dog, Boone, to the children’s hospital.

“Boone gets along with everyone. He loves attention,” Fredman said describing the three-legged Labrador Retriever’s personality.

Meghan Malone, president of Active Minds, said CSU’s chapter of the national organization strives to create a supportive atmosphere for everyone.

“It’s important that people realize mental health is part of their overall health and don’t dismiss it,” she said.

Active Minds, which was founded on campus last October, was recently named best chapter out of 56 at the National Conference in Washington, D.C., according to Malone.

Part of the reason Malone said she believes Active Minds has been so successful is because it brings “an issue kept in the dark and not discussed out into the open.”

The senior psychology and Spanish double major added that mental illness is a common problem, especially among college students.

However, she emphasized that Active Minds is not only about serious issues.

“We wanted to do something with dogs and pets,” she said. “It’s close to Halloween and it’s a fun event.”

Staff writer Amy Robinson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Active Mind holds meetings at 6:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of every month in the Wellness Zone.

A depression and anxiety peer support group also is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Clark C 10-B.

For more information about mental health contact the University Counseling Center, located in Clark C-36, at 491-6053. Or visit the center’s Web site at http://www.counseling.colostate.edu.

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