The Student Occupational Therapy Assistant (SOTA) organization at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College has invited Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi to the Perkinston Campus on May 5, 2021 from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. to administer pet therapy to students, employees, and visitors. The therapy dogs will be stationed in front of the campus cafeteria building along with their representatives/handlers for one-on-one love and attention.
“Our goal is to promote health and wellness during finals week through the use of therapy dogs,” said Emma Claire Dunaway, SOTA President. “We know animals can reduce stress levels, which is why they are so often used at children’s hospitals, the veterans’ administration, and senior living facilities. We wanted to bring this opportunity to the Perkinston Campus so that everyone could enjoy a moment of relaxation and respite from exam stress.”
Dunaway added that this event will provide insight for SOTA members on participant interest in this activity and that may lead to a future research project on the effects of pet therapy provided at MGCCC campuses. Participants can volunteer to answer SOTA member questions such as, self-identified stress on a scale of 1-10 before and after the petting/interaction activity; educating participants on the value of health, wellness, pets and occupational therapy in countering stress; and if the participant would like to see this activity repeated during other stressful times on campus.
“Covid 19 has added to stress levels over the past year and that stress may affect how everyone handles life activities at school and at home,” she said. “If you experience elevated stress during final’s week, consider planned activities to decrease those levels. Activities that improve or boost your outlook on life can lower perceived stress. In the educational setting at MGCCC, occupational therapy promotes individual strengths and healthy habits to improve resiliency and sustained wellness. We want everyone to know that pet therapy is one way to destress and can be very successful. Furry hugs and pats are certainly a very cheerful way to take care of yourself!”
Visiting Pet Teams of South Mississippi is a nonprofit organization that provides therapy animals and their handlers to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care and other venues where pet therapy is welcome and effective. For more information on the group, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vptsmtherapydogs/.