Traumatic combat experiences and months of being subjected to a high-anxiety environment leaves many returning vets with residual mental health issues. Such issues range from depression and insomnia, to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These mental health issues have resulted in violent crime, suicide and even homicidal behavior. Mental health is the foundation for ensuring that vets are able to get a job and re-integrate productively into civilian life.
The Army Surgeon General’s office recently expressed concern with the over-reliance on strong prescription drugs for post-combat mental disorders. Given debate over the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, providing service dogs for vets is a compassionate and effective form of alternative care. Preliminary studies have shown that 82% of PTSD patients paired with dogs reported a reduction in symptoms.
There are numerous reputable organizations such as K9s for Warriors (http://www.k9sforwarriors.org), Pets 2 Vets (http://p2v.org/) and Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (http://www.ecad1.org/) that could partner with the VA, local shelters and the veteran communities to help pair veterans with service dogs.
With four million shelter animals put down each year, and so many veterans suffering in silence, the best possible scenario would be to provide veterans with the love and companionship with dogs who are also in need!