Pets for Colonials

By: Sofia Durrani

According to studies, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students behind alcohol-related unintentional injuries.  The number one cause of suicide for college student suicides is untreated depression. Taking the steps to seeking help for depression, anxiety or general academic stress would be a positive step in improving student life. My commitment focuses on student mental health at GW.   As a graduate student at GW’s Milken Institute School of Public Health I recognize that student life can be stressful at times. The semester ebbs and flows with finals and midterms usually being more stressful times of the years than others. Having someone to talk to can help a lot or a little, but it certainly can’t hurt.

I noticed that the GW Colonial Health Center is a busy place during the week especially during walk in hours (Mon-Thursday from 10-3PM. There’s usually a wait time of at least 15-20 minutes for mental health walk in appointments. Since more students use the counseling services when they are stressed out already I thought up the idea of Pets for Colonials. This service would be a way for college students to interact with pets (cats or dogs) on campus during the week. I wanted these therapy pets to be situated in or near the student health center waiting area. Student would be able to hang out with them while they wait for their medical or counseling. I wanted to focus on decreasing the negative stigma surrounding visiting college counseling services. I hope to work with the Colonial Health Center staff to see logistically how to make this feasible. After talking with several students, I have only received positive feedback. The barriers to making this service a reality would be working around potential pet allergies and any fears students may have of pets. I hope to collect feedback from students through a survey to see if this is a service they would want continue or enhanced.

During my weekend at CGI U I met a number of amazing students with much more ambitious ideas. Not only was I able to get feedback about my commitment but also network with students from other schools about potential practicum projects. It was also a great way to meet other current GWU students who I hadn’t met on campus. I even made a good friend, Ibrahima Kane, who is an online MPH student. Most likely we never would have crossed paths if it wasn’t for CGI U. I was fortunate enough to be speaking with the winner of the Resolution Project, Tomas Otoniel from Guatemala when he found out his “Gimme 5, Let’s Do More” project won! It was such a pleasure to witness him jump up for joy when he received the email. His project focuses on special education needs of the youth of Sumpango, Guatemala. Overall, the weekend wasn’t long enough. A day and a half wasn’t enough time to meet everyone I wanted while attending the workshops and seminars. I am still so grateful for the opportunity to attend CGI U and hope to return next year.