Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Over the years it’s been referred to as shell shock, war neurosis, soldier’s heart and combat stress reaction. Today we refer to it as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Call it what you will, the reality is the same. The symptoms created by the condition can be overwhelming to those living with its effects and in some instances completely debilitating to the afflicted individual.
This is not a rare condition or one effecting only people in some far off place. PTSD can affect anyone who has had a traumatic experience and is among the most common mental health problems. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 1 in 10 people will suffer from PTSD.
With time, treatment, and support many will recover or learn to live with the effects. For the rest the condition remains a battle. Falling victim to a powerful but invisible threat, many will lose their freedom (a freedom they fought with their very lives to preserve). Returning from conflicts with their hearts and souls in tatters they will withdraw from the world around them and from those they love. These are not just people; they are our friends, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters. They are all of us! For some the solution rests on four paws. There is hope, and together we can help!
The exact number of military or other emergency services personnel affected by PTSD is not entirely clear. A 2002 study conducted by Stats Canada indicated that in the preceding year 2.8% of Canadian Forces Regular members and 1.2% of reservists had symptoms of PTSD. Other similar studies have shown this number to actually be as high as 13% or greater. There are estimates that of the approximately 27,000 Canadian Forces personnel deployed to Afghanistan since 2002, 1824 could show symptoms of PTSD and/or depression. In the field of law enforcement some studies estimate that as many as 1/3 of police officers will suffer from PTSD, with similar statistics holding true for paramedics, EMS workers and fire fighters.
A psychiatric service dog may well be the solution. One independent study in the USA done through the Psychiatric Service Dog Society indicated that 82% of PTSD sufferers who were interviewed reported a reduction in symptoms, 40% were also able to reduce medication usage after being partnered with a service dog.