It’s well-known that due to the nature of their service military veterans tend to suffer from several mental health issues. And service dogs tend to have a profound positive impact on the mental health of military veterans. Several research and studies have been conducted over the years to examine how service dogs heal military veterans.
One such research has been conducted by the University of Saskatchewan. It investigates the role of service dogs in minimising suicide rate among military veterans.
The power of human-dog bond
The research indicates that for military veterans who have experienced trauma, the need to feel safe through social connection is important. This helps in reducing the risk of suicide and improves overall mental health. In doing so, what’s groundbreaking is the role of service dogs.
“My study is the first where the human-animal bond is being analysed for the direct potential it has in reducing suicide risk,” said Alexandria Pavelich who conducted the research at University of Saskatchewan.
“Human-animal bond researchers are realising that there is a unique connection between an individual and their service dog. This relationship differs in a lot of ways from the social support that occurs in a human-to-human interaction.”
“It is becoming increasingly recognised that when an adult or child may be too skittish or emotionally shut down – because of trauma they have experienced – to derive any sort of comfort from other humans or a therapist, relationships with animals can do wonders,” she added.
The unspoken support
The research points towards the fact that service dogs offer a sense of purpose, bring a certain routine, therein supporting a military veteran in gradually regaining a sense of normalcy.
“It is that unspoken support – a less complicated form of companionship – that can enable healing.”
The research was supervised by Dr. Colleen Dell, Sociology Professor at the University of Saskatchewan and Research Chair in One Health and Wellness. It was funded by the University of Saskatchewan Dean’s Scholarship and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.