'She saved my life.' Therapy dog helps students at Sachem HS North deal with mental health

One student says Oakley has restored hope in his life.

News 12 Staff

Apr 1, 2022, 10:12 PM

Updated 747 days ago


One Long Island school has added a certified therapy dog as students are dealing with a growing mental health crisis partly stemming from the pandemic.
Caden Homayon,15, says he suffers from depression.
"There was points where I just was going to school," Homayon says. "I just kind of gave up on life."
According to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pandemic has been especially hard on teenagers.
More than two out of five high school students felt sadness or hopelessness that caused them to stop doing things enjoy, according to CDC findings.
The same study found one in five considered suicide.
"All of this existed before COVID, but COVID made it exponentially worse and cuts kids and families off from the social workers, the mental health services," says Jeff Reynolds, of the Family and Children's Association.
That is the reason why Christine Launer, a guidance counselor at Sachem High School North, started the school therapy dog program.
Oakley now comes in every Monday and Friday to play with the students.
"It's this cute, furry thing that's non-judgmental," Launer says "Just as they're petting it, it calms them down and makes them feel better about the situation."
Students say it makes them more open and relaxes, and Launer says Oakley has already made a life-saving difference.
"Just recently a student was interviewed about her and I heard him say to that person, 'She saved my life,'" Launer says.
Homayon says Oakley has restored hope in his life.
"The days when she's here, it's incredible," Homayon says. "I know I have a spot to come down and sit down. I've had a panic attack and I've had her sit on my lap and it was amazing."
Oakley's sister, Bailey, is the school therapy dog at Sachem High School East.

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