The mental health crisis within the veteran community is widely known and prevalent. Although there are many different organizations and services available to help soldiers suffering from PTSD or other mental health issues, some of these organizations have taken a different approach towards treatment. Therapy is provided in the form of companionship from service dogs and the results have been extremely positive.
One of these organizations is called Helping Paws. Their mission is to further people’s independence and quality of life through the use of assistance dogs.* Their dogs help people bound to wheelchairs or those whom have physical disabilities as well as individuals suffering from PTSD. Veterans can apply for a dog through this organization if they feel having a service dog will help them with their illness.
Another organization is America’s Vet Dogs. They specialize in providing dogs for the following areas:
- Seizure Response
- Military Facility
Their PTSD service dog program is limited to veterans with combat-related PTSD and first-responders with work-related PTSD. Each applicant is analyzed and paired up with the best dog for them so that their bond becomes a strong one. There are classes involved if an application is accepted, along with primary training requirements, advanced training, and on-class training. Once the program is complete the dog and PTSD patient will go home together to begin their lives. Dogs at this stage will be trained to do everything from turning on lights, to performing nightmare interruptions, to helping the owner become comfortable in new and different situations.**
People with PTSD have psychological injuries affecting their ability to socialize and control their emotions. One way service dogs help with anxiety as a result of PTSD is through a “rest” command, which instructs the dog to come closer and press against their owner, or if the owner is sitting, to place their head on the owners lap. This action is very soothing in nature and can help eliminate PTSD symptoms very effectively.
Dogs are also trained to turn on light switches so owners don’t have to walk into dark rooms, and perform nightmare interruptions if they notice their owner is having a stressful event while they sleep. They can even sense bouts of depression and will stay by their owner’s side until the symptoms go away.***
It’s amazing to think that trained dogs can have such a profound impact on a veterans’ well being, but people suffering from PTSD are swearing by this treatment method claiming that it’s saved their lives. Many state that they feel their suicidal tendencies may have taken over had it not been for the involvement of the service dog. They were on a downward spiral with only one possible outcome; death.
If you have a friend or family member suffering from PTSD, reach out to one of the aforementioned companies and see if they can help. It may be the exact type of therapy your loved-one needs to achieve recovery and the capability to live a normal life.