For the first time in Pan Am games history, mental health support for athletes will include visits from 125 special dogs. With the pressure of competing at such a major sporting event, the games can be a time of immense tension for athletes. “It’s a stressful time. People are away from home. They’re often dealing with disappointment. They might be dealing with isolation. They are dealing with a constant barrage of stimuli, and they can become anxious and unsettled,” Dr. Julia Alleyne, the Games’ chief medical officer, told the Toronto Star.
This year, specially trained therapy dogs from St. John Ambulance will be visiting the Athlete’s village to give some love and reduce anxiety for the athletes, coaches, staff and volunteers. The dogs are part of a broader effort to provide mental health supports for competing athletes, in addition to having psychologists available. According to the St. John Ambulance website, some of the reported benefits of therapy dogs include:
- Stress relief and distraction from pain
- Comfort and calming
- Improved self-confidence and esteem
CMHA Ontario recognizes the immense pressure faced by athletes and also aims to support young athletes with the Talk Today program. In partnership with the Ontario Hockey League, Talk Today is aimed at raising awareness about suicide and promoting the mental health of young athletes, with CMHA branches providing resources and supports for the players and their families.
To learn more about the St. John Ambulance therapy dogs, visit the St John’s Ambulance website.
To learn more about the Talk Today program, visit our website.