Armed forces veterans suffering PTSD need Mayor’s help to access life-changing assistance dogs
The Mayor of London could support some of the capital’s 5,360 armed forces veterans suffering from PTSD by providing loans for life-changing therapeutic dogs, according to a new report.
‘Paws for Support’, by London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey, calls on the Mayor to use cash reserves and corporate sponsorship to set up an interest-free loan scheme that could provide the capital’s most vulnerable veterans with the trained pets.
The intelligent canines, which help in a similar way to guide dogs, provide reassuring personal assistance to PTSD sufferers and can even wake a sufferer up during recurring nightmares – a common symptom of the illness.
Specially trained by charity (and garlandpr pro bono client) Veterans with Dogs, the animals can be an effective alternative to long-term drug prescriptions, meaning the PTSD sufferer avoids many possible side effects.
Army veteran and Londoner Richard Mearns was left out of work and unable to leave the house because of the trauma of PTSD – a result of his tour of Iraq in 2003.
Since being paired up with Ziggy, an assistance dog from Veterans with Dogs, he suffers fewer anxiety attacks, less frequent nightmares and has been able to gain a full-time job (full case study below).
The cost of training a PTSD dog is £11,000 – with additional costs for CBT-style training for its new owner.
Despite being inundated with requests, the high cost means the charity has a lengthy waiting list and many sufferers are unable to get the help they need.
Assembly Member Bailey believes the Mayor has an opportunity to bridge the funding gap at no expense to the taxpayer to provide some of our veterans with life-changing support.
“We owe it to our armed forces heroes to give them the right help and support when they are discharged from the armed forces and this is a simple and effective way of delivering that.
“PTSD is a devastating mental illness that can ruin the lives of people who have put themselves in harm’s way for our country.
“The Mayor, through existing cash reserves and his ability to attract corporate sponsorship, has the power to provide life-changing help for those most in need.
“I strongly believe we should be doing all we can to get the lives of suffering armed forces veterans back on track and I think Londoners would love to see this taken forward.”
“Living with the symptoms of PTSD has been extremely difficult and it got to a point where I was physically unable to leave the house or go to work.
“My professional and personal life suffered and I endured repeated nightmares that left me sleepless and anxious, causing me to be physically sick.
“Since being paired with Ziggy, my life has dramatically changed. He is a reassuring presence in moments of anxiety and has been trained to wake me up if I suffer nightmares.
“Assistance dogs like Ziggy are life-changing for veterans like me who are suffering the dreadful effects of PTSD. Ziggy has brought me back from extremely dark places, including contemplating suicide.
“Anything that can be done to give people better access to these dogs is great – it will be a benefit not only to the veterans but their families too.”
“We help veterans of all ages who have seen and heard terrible things in the course of their duty in the Armed Forces. Training assistance dogs to help ex-servicemen and women enable them to be part of, and contribute to society.
“We’ve seen it so many times. Some people couldn’t leave their homes and now they commute daily to work in central London, they’ve got a job.
“Many need comfort in the small hours during nightmare after nightmare that they can’t or won’t share with their loved ones but they will with a dog. Trained dogs give these men and women, and their families, their lives back.
“Getting funding for new dogs to be trained and partnered makes the difference between us moving forwards and helping more and more people or just getting an increasingly long waiting list we can’t do anything about. It’s not just important, it’s critical, and it gives people with PTSD their independence back.”
Evening Standard – Call to support therapy dogs scheme for London veterans with PTSD
The Glass Gonad – Mayor pushed to establish veterans loan