by Nick Norris

About 500,000 service dogs are currently helping Americans

On October 10, 2019, people across the globe will observe World Mental Health Day to raise awareness about psychological issues and how to treat them. One of the most common methods to deal with some types of mental ailments is by adopting a service dog, which Medical News Today finds can help reduce stress and depression.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, one in four adults will struggle with mental or neurological conditions at some point in their lives. The study also claims about 450 million people are living with these conditions, making psychological ailments one of the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

Unfortunately, military veterans and first responders are often left with both short and long-term psychological injuries due to their traumatic experiences. Make the Connection believes 12 percent of Gulf War veterans experience post-traumatic stress injuries annually. The same study found PTSI affects 15 percent of Vietnam veterans and up to 20 percent of veterans of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

Some veterans, like Lee Blackwell, have found some comfort through service dogs. After analyzing potential canines, Aubie, a 2-year-old black lab, was decided to pair best with Blackwell. Thanks to a collaboration by IK9 and First Foundation, Blackwell received a companion for free, with all charges being covered by charitable donations.

Aubie has been able to assist Blackwell in a number of ways. For example, she has been trained to block large crowds from getting too close to her owner, allowing Blackwell to have a comfortable area of personal space. Aubie has also been trained to search rooms and turn on lights to help create a sense of safety and ease at home. Most importantly, service dogs like Aubie provide emotional support, something that can be vital in maintaining strong mental health.

Service dogs make for inseparable companions, giving unconditional love without judgement. They provide a sense of passion and consistency that can help those struggling with psychological ailments feel more calm and valued.

The responsibility of having a dog can also be rewarding. It is typically much easier to get out of bed in the mornings when there is someone else to care and provide for. Dog kisses and happy tail wags can make waking up a bit easier, as owners may then start their day with feelings of appreciation and love rather than negative thoughts.

If you or a loved one is interested in adopting, please visit www.firstfoundation.com. A team member will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have and give helpful feedback on which breeds of dog may make the best fit.