Psychiatric service dogs are dogs who are trained to perform a specific task in relation to an individual’s mental disability or mental health issue. Service dogs are protected under the ADA and are considered necessary medical equipment, meaning they can accompany their owners anywhere they go. Psychiatric service dogs can help with a wide range of mental health problems including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and learning disabilities. One other mental health condition a service animal can help with is schizophrenia.
What is Schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia effects 1 in 300 people worldwide. And while it is not the most common mental health disorder, it still effects millions of adults. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and speech, and compulsive behavior, all of which can be debilitating, and the person may lose their ability to take care of themselves and function in society. Individuals generally don’t realize they are ill until a loved one, counsellor, or doctor brings it up.
How Can a Psychiatric Service Animal Help an Individual with Schizophrenia?
A psychiatric service animal can help an individual with schizophrenia in a variety of ways. Here are just a few examples.
1. Help ground them in reality
A service dog can help keep the individual tethered to reality and ground them in the here and now by nudging them, licking their face, or climbing on them to help distract them and give them sensory stimuli to keep them present.
2. Calm panic attacks
A dog can stand on top of an individual and apply pressure point therapy to help alleviate a panic attack and ground them in the present.
3. Provide unconditional love and affection
Just having the love and undying affection of an animal can boost the mood of someone struggling with mental illness and provide them with joy and comfort.
4. Interrupting self-harming behaviors
One symptom of schizophrenia can include struggling with self-harm. A service dog can help interrupt this behavior and give the person something else to focus on.
5. Guard against perceived danger
A service dog can be trained to stand in front of an individual and create a barrier against any perceived threat. Whether that threat be a hallucination or a real-life person, this can help give the person a sense of safety.
6. Lower stress
Petting a service dog has been shown to lower blood pressure and cortisol in people. This can help lower stress and anxiety and keep an individual calm.
7. Help with socializing
Individuals with schizophrenia may struggle greatly with social interaction but having a dog at their side may provide an easy segway into conversation and give them confidence to put themselves out there.
8. Remind them of medications
The individual may have difficulty remembering to take their medication, so a service animal can remind them at the time they are supposed to take them and even bring them the bottle.
9. Help provide stability and balance
If the person experiences dizziness or loss of motor control, a service dog can help provide them something to lean on, giving them stability.
10. Keep an individual on schedule
If the individual struggles to stay on schedule, wake up at the right time, or other time management issues, a service dog can wake them up and remind of them of certain tasks as certain times.
Psychiatric service animals can be an amazing tool to help those dealing with schizophrenia. They provide comfort, support, stability and perform daily tasks that will make the person’s mental illness more manageable and help them function better in society. To get a psychiatric service dog letter of certification, you can visit United Support Animal today. Our experts can get you the service animal certification you need quickly and easily.