Veterans Day, observed every year on November 11, honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. On this day, we would like to take a moment and recognize the challenges that come after serving the country and shed some light on the current mission to help veterans receive continued care post-service. While there are organizations dedicated to physical health care and making sure our vets have homes, there are some other important initiatives to help veteran mental health.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (also known as PTSD) affects more than 250,000 (30 percent) of post 9-11 war veterans, with an alarming 22 suicides per day. HABRI (The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute) states: “PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by symptoms related to intrusion, avoidance, negative alterations in cognition and mood, and alterations in arousal and reactivity.” Through research, HABRI has discovered that veterans experiencing PTSD who are paired with a K9s for Warriors service dog reported an overall better quality of life – results included:
- PTSD Symptoms: Lower overall PTSD symptom severity and a better ability to cope with flashbacks and anxiety attacks
- Sleep Quality: Lower frequency of nightmares and less overall sleep disturbance
- Mental Wellbeing: Lower overall anxiety, depression, and anger
- Social Wellbeing: Higher levels of companionship and social reintegration, and lower levels of social isolation; More able to leave their home and interact in public with others; More able to participate in social activities and perform large tasks such as going to movies, concerts, or travelling.
- Life Satisfaction: Increased overall psychological wellbeing, and higher levels of life satisfaction and resilience
- Medication use: Decreased reliance on prescription drugs including anxiety, depression, sleep, nightmares, mental disorders and pain medications
Furthermore, HABRI is funding a pilot study conducted by Purdue University entitled, “The Effects of Service Dogs on Mental Health and Wellness in War Veterans with PTSD and/or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).” The study seeks to prove that veterans with PTSD and/or TBI who have service dogs will show better mental health and wellness, compared to those receiving other treatment services, while on the waitlist for a service dog.
Important legislation is also on the table with bill H.R.2327: The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act. It directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to provide service dogs to veterans with severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This important, lifesaving initiative would make grants to eligible organizations to provide “service dogs to veterans with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, and for other purposes.”
Service Dogs are so important for the livelihood of a variety of people – from those with physical disabilities or serious medical issues. With bills like H.R. 2327, service dogs for veterans would fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), legally protecting the companionship of person and dog in any environment. While we honor our veterans on November 11, take a moment to support the important legal actions taking place to further assist these individuals, as well as applaud the latest research with pets that can help facilitate these measures.
All stats and research are available on HABRI.org.
Healthy Paws supports the research provided by HABRI, as well as a variety of other organizations that focus on companion pet welfare. Check out How We Give Back and join our pack by getting a free quote.