TV presenter and PTSD Dogs Australia Ambassador Tamara Wrigley is calling forfunding and a new property for the non-profit, which trains displaced andunwanted dogs to support and assist veterans (both working and medically-discharged) and First Responders – fire, police and ambulance.

PTSD affects as many as one in four people who experience traumatic events,and these figures are set to increase over the coming months due to triggersbrought on Covid-19, especially for first line responders who haven’t beenable to catch a break due to the fires and being isolated from their supportnetwork due to coronavirus restrictions.

After the SARS outbreak in 2003, almost 50 percent of the front-linehealthcare workers and people who were self-quarantined showed symptoms ofPTSD, according to a study.

It is estimated that approximately 8.3% of Australian Defence Force (ADF)members have experienced PTSD in the last 12 months, which is significantlyhigher than in the Australian community (5.2%). In particular, ADF malesreport a greater rate of PTSD compared with the general community (8.1% versus4.6%).

Those figures could nearly triple with PTSD Dogs Australia alreadyexperiencing an increased volume of calls from people with early signs of PTSDneeding assistance over the past few months.

Research shows assistance dogs are an extremely effective intervention forveterans with PTSD, with all studies showing they confer a range of benefitson functioning and mental health.

To date, more than 20 dogs have been through the program (case studiesavailable) since the charity launched in 2018, but with mental health issuesso prevalent among veterans and first responders – including those caught upin the recent fires and COVID-19, there is an urgent need for more dogs andmore foster parents, especially as waitlists for similar charities can beseveral years-long.

“PTSD Dogs Australia has been inundated with requests recently from all overAustralia, including those affected by the fires and COVID-19,” says Tamara.

“It takes at least 18 months and costs around $40,000 to train an assistancedog, and we need a larger property now so we can get these dogs in and starttraining them so they will be ready for the avalanche of screams for help,because they’re coming.

“We rescue dogs from shelters all over the country, and they’re assessed ontheir empathy and trainability. We call our training immersion therapy becauseunlike a psychologist or psychiatrist, who takes them back through the processof whatever caused their PTSD, we minimise the stress of their learningprocess.

“It has to be slow and gradual, and once they become familiar with the dog, wetake them out into public spaces at quiet times and build their confidenceslowly and get them feeling confident and in control again.

“People suffering PTSD tend to remove themselves from society and lockthemselves in their house, and our dogs are trained to help mitigate that andget them back out and into the community again.

“These dogs give people their lives back, and we rescue the dogs which in turnrescue their humans.”

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