Therapy Dogs Visit With Brightline Commuters In The Name Of Better Mental Health
Thursday is World Mental Health Day. It's recognized by the World Health Organization as a day to talk about mental health awareness, education, and to push for an end to the stigma that can sometimes surround asking for help.
Brightline train stations have joined in on the advocacy - bringing in therapy dogs to spend time with commuters for a couple of days this week.
"Just makes my day much better, to be honest, I really appreciate it," Chris McGuire said. He works in Fort Lauderdale, and commutes every day from Miami by train.
"Skyla's super cute, he said. "I might take her home with me."
Skyla is a 10 (and a half) year-old Black Lab lying belly-up on the floor of the station, getting petted.
She's one of four therapy dogs who greeted travelers at the Fort Lauderdale station Tuesday afternoon in a visit organized by the nonprofit Canine Assisted Therapy. The animals will be on site too in all three Brightline stations on Thursday.
"It keeps you in the moment," said Courtney Trzcinski, executive director of Canine Assisted Therapy, about interacting with therapy animals. "You're not stressing or worrying about something that's gonna happen or that has happened."
A pug named Pebbles had that de-stressing effect for Jessica Cedeño. She works in a marina in Fort Lauderdale and catches the 5 a.m. train from Miami everyday.
"At this time I'm so tired," she said. "So it could be fine for me to pet the dogs and relax."
Ben Porritt, Brightline's Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, explained why the private company wants to do more to promote mental health awareness:
"We know that, certainly, people in everyday life are struggling with mental health," Porritt said. "We want people to come in and to see that there's ways to get help and things that maybe they haven't explored before."
For Skyla, that could be someone petting her until they catch their train.
If you or someone you know is struggling or experiencing feelings of helplessness, you can call 2-1-1 Broward or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)