Living with a mental health condition is overwhelming, at times terrifying, isolating and debilitating. The persistence of trauma and the reactivation by triggers often makes this even worse.

It can be hard for people with a mental health condition, particularly Veterans, to seek help because they feel ashamed and would prefer to hide their problems. People with mental health problems may not be aware that what they have is a mental illness that is treatable. They can find asking for help scary and they may not even know what they are asking for help with.

Veterans suffering from mental health problems often say the best services are ones where they are listened to, treated as equals, and are given support or treatment that works for them. Veterans often do better when seeking help where they are understood, with supportive caring people who are non-judgemental. This is part of the basis from which we work with our Veterans.

There are several models of recovery for mental health illnesses that include factors such as personal development, learning, healing, and adaptation, as key to recovery. Reducing social isolation is an important part of the recovery process, and understanding mechanisms for reducing isolation and improving quality of life can help facilitate recovery. Dog ownership has been identified as one such method of reaching these goals.

Benefits of Dog Ownership

Animals deliver proven physical, psychological and health benefits for their owners and have important benefits for society as a whole.

Modern lifestyles can create loneliness, isolation and a sense of vulnerability. Dog ownership provides companionship, gives immense pleasure and reduces stress levels, without the complications of human relationships.

Dogs also help to build social networks within the community, creating opportunities for greater social interaction.

A shared interest in dogs brings together people from all walks of life. Dogs can help to initiate conversations between strangers in public places, or be the basis more for structured social activities such as dog showing and dog obedience classes.