Chairman Talks: The Benefits of Animal Therapy for Veterans
In recent years, there has been a significant surge in mental and behavioural disorders among British Army service personnel. Alarming statistics reveal a 318% increase in medically discharged personnel due to these disorders over the past decade. As we strive to combat this escalating issue, one therapeutic approach is emerging as a beacon of hope: animal therapy.
Animal therapy, particularly involving dogs, has been recognised for its potential to complement traditional treatment strategies for veterans grappling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. This blog explores the profound benefits of animal therapy, offering insights into how this unconventional yet effective method can help improve the mental health landscape for veterans.
A Complementary Treatment for PTSD
The bond between humans and animals has long been celebrated for its therapeutic effects. For veterans with PTSD, this bond may hold the key to unlocking a path towards recovery. Research indicates that the human-animal connection can effectively complement evidence-based interventions for PTSD. Veterans, particularly those with PTSD, often avoid human interaction. In such cases, a canine companion can provide a sense of comfort and companionship, helping them navigate their journey towards recovery.
Enhancing Physical Health
It's not just mental health that stands to gain from animal therapy. Pet owners, especially dog owners, are found to exercise more and have a lower risk of cardiac disease. Regular walks with a therapy dog can motivate veterans to lead an active lifestyle, contributing to improved overall health.
Combatting Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety often lead veterans to isolate themselves. However, the presence of a therapy dog or regularly visiting an animal therapy program such as those offered by SAVSIM in conjunction with ZSL can encourage them to step outside, engage in physical activity and interact with others. Animal contact has been proven to reduce depression, anxiety, and aggression, promoting a positive mood and a sense of calmness.
Handling therapy dogs or other animals can also significantly boost the mood and confidence of veterans. Training a service dog to assist fellow veterans can provide a sense of purpose and engagement, acting as a powerful tool for rehabilitation and wellness. By using animal-assisted therapy programs as well as having their own therapy animal this can lessen the feelings of anxiety and depression that many people encounter. Through our Animal Assisted Therapy Course with ZSL and training courses to help veterans use their skills to prevent animal poaching, SAVSIM is dedicated to the mission of helping veterans take control of their mental and physical health for a bright future.
The rise in mental and behavioural disorders among veterans presents a pressing challenge. However, the burgeoning field of animal therapy offers a ray of hope. By integrating animal therapy into traditional treatment modalities, we can provide holistic care that addresses both the physical and mental well-being of veterans.
While further research is needed to understand the full spectrum of benefits offered by animal therapy, the existing evidence paints a promising picture. It's time we give our heroes the support they deserve, and perhaps, the solution lies at the other end of a leash.
On behalf of the animals, we protect and the veterans we support.