Dec 15, 2015 3:44 PM

As suicides climb on college campuses, UNH's canine counselor helps stressed out students

DURHAM - Students across the country are taking finals this week, before Christmas break. It's a stressful period, and educators worry about increased depression and even suicides during this time.

Last year, about 1,350 American college students took their own lives.

To help de-stress students at the University of New Hampshire, a dog named Hamilton is taking appointments and meeting with them in play session to help melt their test jitters and erase their pre-holiday anxiety.

"His schedule is booked three weeks out," said Maria Caplan, a health counselor at UNH.

Caplan cites research showing therapy dogs help to reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate. With educators increasingly concerned with the number of suicides on U.S. college campuses, they are employing creative therapies to treat emotional and mental health issues like depression.

"Here at UNH, stress is the number one issues affecting kids," said Caplan.

The Centers for Disease Control finds anxiety and depression top all other health problems among college students.

Just like any mental health counselor, students can book Hamilton for 20 to 30 minute therapy sessions. He's non-judgmental and a great listener.

"We will be in the library or walk around campus and Hamilton helps students de-stress," said Meghan Barker, one of Hamilton's handlers.

"It gives us a break. We've been here all day, and this is the first time we've gotten up," said Jessica Tremblay, a UNH student. "I'm a science major, and it's a reminder that there's more to life than school."


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