More veterans seeking to manage their post-traumatic stress disorder will benefit with the expansion of the government’s psychiatric assistance dog program.
CAPTION: Founder and director of training with Smart Pups Patricia McAlister with Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester. Supplied.
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said following the successful launch of the program in September there had been increased interest from the ex-service community and organisations passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health.
“Veterans have told me about the benefits of an assistance dog in managing their mental health in a positive way — this is real action that responds to the needs of veterans,” Mr Chester said.
“These dogs are matched with veterans and are trained to notice signs of distress and perform specific actions to ease the symptoms of PTSD – for example, waking their handler experiencing a night terror or nuzzling their handler to distract them.
“By expanding the panel of providers, more veterans will be able to access a psychiatric assistance dog to assist them in managing their PTSD, reduce isolation and give the veteran a chance to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
“I encourage those organisations who train assistance dogs and who are passionate about supporting veterans’ mental health to review the open tender and submit an application.”
Founder and Director of Training of Smart Pups Patricia McAlister said she has been working with and training dogs since she was 10 years old and after seeing the difference an assistance dog makes, she has made it her mission to train more of them.
“Since being announced as one of the first two providers of psychiatric assistance dogs, I have interviewed a number of veterans who are delighted and excited about Smart Pups working with them to provide a dog that will suit their unique needs,” Ms McAlister said.
“Veterans and their families give so much for our country and I am proud that Smart Pups is able to support them, and their families, by providing them with a dog that will have a profound effect on their everyday lives.”
Interested providers should have access to qualified and registered mental health professionals with experience in working with individuals with PTSD and who can advise on all aspects of partnering veterans with psychiatric assistance dogs.
For more information on the requirements and guidelines of the open tender or to apply, providers are encouraged to visit the AusTender website.
Veterans currently seeking treatment for PTSD are encouraged to speak to their mental-health professional in regards to gaining access to a psychiatric assistance dog, or for more information in this factsheet on the DVA web site .
Open Arms – Veterans & Families Counselling provides support for current and ex-serving ADF personnel and their families. Free and confidential help is available 24/7. Phone 1800 011 046 (international: +61 1800 011 046 or +61 8 8241 4546) or visit www.OpenArms.gov.au