As we observe Veteran’s Day this week, and honor all those brave men and women who have served this country so selflessly, I ask the question: What do you get when you put loving dogs, selfless trainers and veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder together? In many cases, a stepping stone to recovery.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afflicts over 300,000 service members. Concern over its increase and impact continues to grow. Self-harm is now the leading cause of death for members of the Army. Every month nearly 1,000 discharged veterans attempt to take their own lives.
Lt. Commander Pamela Herbig Wall visited Illinois last year to participate in a community forum on PTSD. She noted that adjustment disorders include flashbacks and intrusive memories, trouble sleeping, alcohol abuse and problems re-establishing relationships with loved ones. She likened a vet’s wartime experiences to a person who runs across a bear in the woods. After that, “You’re constantly looking for the bear,” she stated.
A variety of treatments to combat PTSD are being used and explored through the armed services. Brett Litz, a clinical psychiatrist in the VA Boston Healthcare System, stated that the existing treatments often weren’t enough to improve veterans’ conditions. Litz found an underlying sadness was the main thing he heard – not just sadness related to loss, but also sadness he attributed to “bearing witness to evil and human suffering and seeing death and participating in it.”
Dave Keeler is familiar with the trauma and sadness vets experience. He, and his dog – a Golden doodle named Magnolia, belong to “Divine Canines”, an organization that brings service dogs to soldiers diagnosed with PTSD. “This is important work,” Keeler remarked. “We bring the skills the dogs naturally have to these men who have so bravely served this country.”