Although the war is over, for many the battle has just begun. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, has become an increasingly important issue as the number of Veterans diagnosed has doubled since 2002 to 5.8%. In 2013 the Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey found that 11.1% of Regular Forces personnel met criteria for PTSD at some point in the life. This gap between those who report symptoms and seek help is eye-opening and leads to question how many Veterans are suffering in silence?
We at Legion are trying to change this by raising more awareness and support for Veterans with PTSD. The Legion Service Dog program supports the Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs (VICD). The dogs are professionally trained with Veterans to perform specific tasks and provide emotional support.
What are Compassion Dogs?
A Stress Injury Service and Support Dog specifically trained to support a Veteran diagnosed PTSD. The dogs learn to be emotionally tuned to their person and their unique triggers. Here are some ways PTSD Compassion Dogs help Veterans:
- Tactical stimulation to disrupt emotional overload
- Assisting Veteran to leave an area by finding an exit
- Waking Veteran from night terrors
- Rousing Veteran from fear paralysis or disassociation spell
- Preventing emotional overload
- Mechanical Tasks Like turning on the lights or retrieving specific items
- Alerting external help during a crisis
- Supporting veterans in re-entering daily life
Veterans describe their dogs as non-judgmental, unconditional companions that provide an unwavering sense of support – that someone always has their back
Training a team is provided free of charge to each recipient. It takes one and year and $28,000 for a team to complete the program and ongoing post-graduation aftercare. This includes a PTSD service dog, dog food, veterinary care, professional PTSD service dog training, training equipment and ongoing VICD program graduate continuing education and support.
BC/Yukon Legion Foundation donated $120,000 to Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs in 2016.
BC/Yukon Command Legion Branches donated $40,000 to Vancouver Island Compassion Dogs in 2016.
If you would like more information please go to VICD’s website: vicompassiondogs.ca or call 1-250-954-5552.