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High schools try therapy pets, 'recess,' no-homework nights to lower 'epidemic' student stress

  • In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, a student pets Junie, the school's "therapy dog," at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are on the rise at many U.S. high schools, due to heightened academic expectations and troubles at home made worse by the shaky economy. So some schools are trying unconventional methods, such as therapy dogs, to help students cope. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

    In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, a student pets Junie, the school's "therapy dog," at Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are on the rise at many U.S. high schools, due to heightened academic expectations and troubles at home made worse by the shaky economy. So some schools are trying unconventional methods, such as therapy dogs, to help students cope. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, Junie, a "therapy dog" at Prospect High School, sits in a classroom at the school in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The 18-month-old golden retriever is one way this school is trying to help students cope with a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Many say these issues are a problem in schools across the country. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

    In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, Junie, a "therapy dog" at Prospect High School, sits in a classroom at the school in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The 18-month-old golden retriever is one way this school is trying to help students cope with a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Many say these issues are a problem in schools across the country. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, Junie, a "therapy dog" at Prospect High School, lies on the floor in a classroom in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The 18-month-old golden retriever is one way this school is trying to help students cope with a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Many say these issues are a problem in schools across the country. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)

    In this Jan. 14, 2013 photo, Junie, a "therapy dog" at Prospect High School, lies on the floor in a classroom in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The 18-month-old golden retriever is one way this school is trying to help students cope with a rise in stress, anxiety and panic attacks. Many say these issues are a problem in schools across the country. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine)  (The Associated Press)

Stress, anxiety and panic attacks are on the rise at many U.S. high schools, due to heightened academic expectations and troubles at home made worse by the shaky economy.

So some schools are trying unconventional methods to help students cope. Those methods include homework-free nights and the teenage equivalent of "recess" at a small but growing number of schools across the country.

At Prospect High School in suburban Chicago, counselors are using a "therapy dog," an 18-month-old golden retriever named Junie.

The staff there says Junie helps lighten the mood and, in more severe cases, aids them in calming students who are having panic attacks. Guidance counselor Lynn Thornton says they're seeing more students who are having to be hospitalized because of anxiety and depression.