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Feb 5, 2013 9:57 AM by Marissa Torres

Man's best friend to the rescue

The pressure of good grades, bullies and teen life.. probably hasn't changed much from when most of us were in grade school. But the way schools are treating the stress and anxiety that comes with it...is.

Junie, a Golden Retriever, is the newest member of the counseling team at a suburban Chicago High School. Her job? To help stressed out students, relax.

"There are students who are on this end of the spectrum and stop down, 'Hey I just want to pet Junie and sort of get a Junie fix, and they smile and the mood is elevated -- all the way to, 'I'm in the throes of a panic attack and I need to sit with Junie while I talk to you," says Lynn Thornton, counselor at Prospect High school.

Stress is a growing problem at schools across the country, where many students are feeling over-worked, overwhelmed and in need of a little understanding; even from a furry friend.

"I'm not a school person, like I have anger problems and I have anxiety problems. But when I come in and see her, it's just... I get calm," says one student.

One School in Minnesota says it's trying other ways to reduce stress, including the teen-age version of "recess," a 20-minute break between morning classes.

"What the 20-minute break provides is time to rest instead of going from one class where my brain is working to another where it has to work for just a long. It's really nice because I don't get much sleep" says one high school Junior.

That's because she and many of these students often have four hours of homework each night.
Sometimes the type of work their parents did in college.

"I don't know any other profession in the world that works a full day, has all those other things placed up on them and then is told you have four hours of work on top of that when you get home," adds Principal of Chanhassen High School, Timothy Dorway.

"Even the amount of hospitalizations has increased dramatically, anxiety and depression," says Thornton. "I really don't see that changing until maybe colleges would really step up and say, 'Hey, you know what? You guys teach high school and we'll teach college."

In the meantime, Junie is on the case.

So how do dogs actually help? Research shows pets decrease the level of stress hormones and endorphins, known as the happiness hormone.

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