Let’s Talk About Mental Health: Using Service Dogs to Manage PTSD

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Mental health issues can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background.

In honor Mental Health Awareness Month (May), GovCIO has initiated a new, ongoing, employee interview series to help foster a more open dialogue about mental health in the workplace. As a part of this series, members of the GovCIO team are reflecting on some of the most prevalent mental health topics today, along with tips for managing stress and anxiety.

Spotlight on PTSD with Jeffrey Camp

Learn about the impact that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can have on your life — and how to navigate that journey with some help from a furry friend — with Jeffery Camp, GovCIO Organizational Change Manager and a member of the Board of Directors for Paws for Purple Hearts, an organization that provides service dogs for service members that suffer from PTSD or TBI.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. PTSD is linked to severe anxiety, depression, and sometimes suicidal behavior. It can take years for someone with PTSD to recover from their traumatic experience, and many people never fully recover.

One of the treatment options for PTSD is service dogs. Service dogs have been trained to perform tasks that help people with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Unlike emotional support animals, service dogs have gone through extensive training and certification to become skilled in their abilities.

Studies have shown that service dogs can help people with PTSD in numerous ways. One of the most significant benefits of having a service dog is that it can help alleviate the symptoms of PTSD, such as anxiety and depression. This benefit is because of the unconditional love and companionship that a service dog provides. The animal is always by the side of their owner, offering comfort and love.  This will often facilitate a reduction in the medication used to treat PTSD.

Jeff Camp, PTSD

"I served in the US Army and Illinois Army National Guard for over 32 years. This subject matter has a special place in my heart since I have personally witnessed the impact that a service dog has made on the lives of many veterans who suffer with PTSD."

Jeffrey Camp
Organizational Change Manager

How Service Dogs Can Alleviate PTSD Symptoms

1. They Recognize and React to PTSD Triggers

Service dogs are also trained to recognize and react to the triggers that can cause a person with PTSD to experience a traumatic event. For example, if a person with PTSD is triggered by loud noises, their service dog can help by alerting them before the noise occurs or comforting them afterward. Service dogs can also help alleviate nightmares and night terrors that are common with PTSD.

2. They Provide a Sense of Security and Safety

People with PTSD often have a heightened sense of danger. A service dog can help alleviate that feeling by providing protection and a sense of security. They can also help people with PTSD feel more comfortable in social settings by reducing their social anxiety. As service dogs are incredibly loyal and attentive, they make excellent companions for people with PTSD, who may feel disconnected from others. The animal's attention and focus can help ground the person with PTSD and bring them back to the present.

3. They Reduce Anxiety About Being in Public

Many people with PTSD struggle to leave their homes due to the high level of anxiety that comes with being in public. However, with a service dog, they can feel more comfortable and confident in going out into the world. The service dog can act as a buffer between the person with PTSD and the rest of the world, providing a sense of safety and security that can help them overcome their anxiety.

PTSD can be a debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Service dogs offer a unique and effective way to help those struggling with PTSD. The companionship, loyalty, and training of service dogs make them ideal for helping people with PTSD overcome their symptoms and live a more fulfilling life.

*If you’re a service member suffering from PTSD, or a family member or friend of a service member in need, click below to learn  about how Paws for Purple Hearts may be able to help.*

Learn More about Paws for Purple Hearts