Cat Helps Provide Emotional Support to Resident Assistant

Story and Video by Clarissa Kell

When Brandon Darsow entered his room one evening last spring, the atmosphere of the room felt tense. He paced the short distance of his room, his mind racing.

The first time the Portage junior had a panic attack in front of his support animal Minx, he realized the benefit of having her around.

Darsow said his panic attacks do not have physical symptoms and are just continuous racing thoughts of everything and anything that he could be anxious about.

It wasn’t until Minx, Darsow’s new emotional support cat, became scared and hid under the black chair in Darsow’s bedroom that he broke out of the vicious mind game of his panic attack.

Mellowing Out with Minx
Darsow said he suffers from both anxiety and depression so he applied to get an emotional support animal through Student Disability Services at Central Michigan University last spring and got Minx in April 2016.

Darsow said he still gets panic attacks at least two to three times a day, but Minx helps by distracting him. He said it is hard to have your mind go through a repetition of fears when there is a cat constantly getting into mischief and meowing loudly.

Darsow said that having Minx helps others, too. He said most college students face a lot of anxiety during their college career and any form of help can really improve the situation.

Darsow said as an RA, Minx has really helped relax residents when they come to talk to him about their issues.

Andrew Keith, a resident in Darsow’s residence hall, said he also benefits from Darsow’s emotional support cat because he also deals with anxiety and depression every day.

Registering for a Support Animal
Lynne L’Hommedieu, the director of Student Disability Services, said there are a total of eight students on campus that have support animals. She said there are five cats (including Minx), two dogs and one rabbit.

The numbers of support animals on campus have been on the rise. L’Hommedieu said there are currently 19 students going through the process of getting a support animal. However, usually only 20 percent actually get through the whole process.

Getting a support animal is a long process, L’Hommedieu said, but the long process is necessary to make sure the animal will actually help the students applying for it.

She said when students aren’t able to attain an emotional support animal, it does not mean the student does not have a need for the animal, just that there wasn’t enough documentation that supports the student’s need.

She remembers when Darsow applied for an emotional support animal. She said she is happy that Minx is not only helping Darsow, but others too.

Added Paws-itivity
The environment in Darsow’s room has drastically changed since Minx moved in – it has gone from being tense with anxiety to being filled with vocal meows and the jingling of the little blue bell on Minx’s collar.

Students interested in having a therapy/emotional support animal must first register with Student Disability Services. The next step would to get in touch with Lynne L’Hommedieu.


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