Newcastle students have found a way to give their mental health a boost – thanks to a slightly unusual member of Newcastle University’s Wellbeing Team.

Bessie – a three-year-old Jack Russell Terrier – is available for staff or students to take for a walk or just to give them a bit of company.

A number of studies have shown that spending time with animals, such as dogs and cats, can have a positive impact on people’s mental wellbeing. And the university hope that their ‘Borrow Bessie’ scheme will help improve the mental and physical health of their students and employees.

The ‘Borrow Bessie’ programme is one of a range of initiatives being tried out by the Wellbeing Team.

Sally Ingram, Bessie’s owner and Newcastle University’s director of student health and wellbeing, said, “Research has shown that time spent with animals can alleviate worry, provide comfort and help people deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness – all issues that students can sometimes struggle with.”

“Combining this with fresh air and physical exercise is a good recipe for positive physical and mental wellbeing.”

Paige Coope, a third-year philosophy student who has participated in the Borrow Bessie scheme, said, “As someone who doesn’t have pets at home, but who is very fond of dogs, it was a perfect opportunity to enjoy the company of Bessie.”

“I would recommend this service to anyone who may be stressed with exams or for those who simply want the company of a great dog and have a spare hour.”

James Woods, who is studying business, media and communication, said, “Exams can bring a lot of additional pressure, worry and stress, so we were ecstatic to find out that Bessie was available for walks.”

“Bessie came with us on a stroll to Exhibition Park, where we sat in the sun and watched the ducks swim. She’s a very cheerful dog; in fact, so calm that we made her a daisy chain necklace to wear and she kept it on for the duration of our time together!”

“I can’t wait to spend more time with Bessie. She is sure to bring you some much-deserved downtime when you need it – especially if you miss your pets from home.”

Bessie is not the first dog to contribute to the wellbeing of Newcastle University’s staff and students. During last year’s stressful exam period, Newcastle University Business School enjoyed visits from Frankie, a greyhound from the organisation Therapy Dogs Nationwide.

In addition, the university’s School of Psychology is trialling a scheme in which members of staff can bring their dogs to work one day a week. It is hoped that this will help staff and students deal with stress and encourage more social interaction.

The university has also recently launched an app aimed at improving students’ wellbeing and encouraging positive daily habits.

The app can be downloaded at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.uniwellbeing.newcastle or https://apps.apple.com/app/id1476808345.

(Featured image courtesy of Emily Way, from Flickr Creative Commons)





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