I’m starting a new series where I react to various mental health news and columns I find online because I’m a *~ srius media critic ~* As a journalist I read a lot of news every day and mental health is a special area of interest to me for whatever reason.
This is something I found on Metro’s website. A farm in the US is offering a ‘Horse and Cow Experience’, which promises to give visitors the chance to ‘bring relaxation, healing and awareness about (their) body language’ via ‘cow cuddling’.
You might expect me to burst into a rant right about now about how treatments like this are absolute nonsense but I should mention at this point that I absolutely adore animals. I can also absolutely get on board with the idea of spending some time with animals to reduce your anxiety.
When I spent about three months in hospital, I was eventually allowed out on walks. It was lovely to be away from the ward but if I ran into a dog or a cat I could pet, it made my day if not the whole week. The animals didn’t care where I was coming from or where I was going after our brief interaction, they just wanted a cuddle.
Their owners unfortunately weren’t as open-minded. When I wasn’t allowed out yet without supervision, people would stare. The nurses wear that shade of clinical turquoise nobody actually wears, and there is no point in them taking of their lanyard because you know that they are with the NHS and if you’re with them, not wearing similar colours, people just put two and two together in their head and assume you’re a patient.
Because there was nothing physically wrong with me, people would stare or at its worst, cross the street so they shouldn’t have to walk past us when we were out. Maybe they thought that I was going to be dangerous. Being at a mental health ward isn’t exactly the high point of your life, and the social discountenance didn’t exactly add to the experience.
Don’t worry mate, you can’t catch it.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: If you see a person or a group of people out with a healthcare professional, you can be certain that they’re not going to attack you. People who are considered a risk wouldn’t be allowed out like that, with or without supervision. We’re not chained to anyone’s ankle so there’d be nothing to stop an escape should anyone fancy it. If someone is allowed out on a walk, a trained medical professional has approved of it. Relax, you’re safe.
As soon as I was allowed on walks on my own this social isolation stopped. People would say good morning and allow me to pet their dog. Stroking a dog’s or cat’s soft fur was so lovely because it was normalcy against the clinical disinfectant-smelling ward where all everyone would talk about was medications, diagnoses and whether you were allowed to use a hair dryer. All this animal wanted was a cuddle. That was lovely.
Instead of treating a fellow human being like an ancient plague patient while you’re walking your dog, how about allowing them to say hi to him or her? I know not everyone likes their dog being greeted by a stranger but if you’d allow it to someone who isn’t accompanied by a nurse, there is no reason for you to deny it from those who are. It’s nothing big or costly, just basic compassion towards another human being. Your dog might just be the best thing that has happened to this person all week.
Shortly after I was discharged, I spent the weekend at a friend’s house and he had a cat called Tigerlily. She was an elderly cat and quite nonchalant, she wasn’t too fussed about being petted. Then one night while we were watching the telly, she jumped on the sofa and curled up on my lap to purr. As I stroked her head I could feel my whole body tremble as I relaxed. It was just so nice. I could feel her warmth, the motor of her purring and her rib cage rising and lowering against me. It was the most relaxed I had been in weeks.
So I can definitely vouch for the benefits of contact with animals can have into your mood. Therefore I also promote the idea of cuddling a cow. They are gentle and calm animals, even though smelly, and so big that you can put your arms around them. My only qualm about this story (of course you knew there was going to be one) is this following sentence:
‘A 90-minute session costs $300 (£224) for two people, during which you can pet, brush and cuddle the cows and there’ll also be a licensed counsellor present.’
Why is it so fucking expensive?
Honestly, this is why people consider these things a charlatan’s ploy made to squeeze some money out of gullible people. I know there is a counsellor present but basically what they’re doing is standing next to a cow as you brush it, a job the farmer is now saved from doing. The cows are not on the clock at least to my knowledge. So why is this so expensive?
The word that might help us to look in the right direction is the word ‘wellness trend’ being used in the headline. In 2015, the wellness tourism sector was said to have generated $563 billion in revenue, and is the fastest-growing form of travel worldwide. One of the key experts in wellness, Dr John Travis, said in Beau Donnelly and Nick Toscano’s book ‘The Woman who fooled the world’ that wellness has been stripped of its original meaning.
“It’s now commonplace to hear the word used to peddle products of all prescriptions, which have a tenuous link at best with personal health and well-being,” he said.
Now, I’m not saying that the cow cuddling is like that. For all I know the owners of that farm in upstate New York are perfectly sincere in their desire to help people tackle their mental health difficulties and $300 for 90 minutes was the lowest amount they could charge for two people with the counsellor’s expertise included in order to be able to create enough profit to fund their business.
However : for two people. Two. I go to counselling every week and I can assure you, I wouldn’t want another person to be there besides my counsellor. A counselling session isn’t exactly known for its pleasant conversation. If I decide to have a breakdown as I cuddle a cow, I don’t want anyone else to witness it except the said cow because they are very passionate about their data protection, and the counsellor wearing wellies who is making a sweet amount of dollah in an hour anyway so the price should definitely be guaranteeing a judgement-free experience.
But what if you can’t afford this experience? Should you be deprived of it? I want to make a public request: If you own farm animals or know someone who does, and the said animals enjoy being cuddled, how about approaching your local mental health charity and offer their clients the opportunity to come and say hi to them for free or for a small fee?
After this story I have become a passionate campaigner to allow #cowtherapy for all regardless of their financial status.
The original story: https://metro.co.uk/2018/05/23/cow-cuddling-set-next-big-wellness-trend-7570269/