A service dog is a special canine that has been properly trained to do things that will aid an individual who has a disability. These dogs learn and perform tasks that include guiding those who are blind to protecting people who may experience seizures. There are many tasks they can be trained to do in support of those that have both visible and invisible disabilities.
In the past, service dogs were used only by people who had physical disabilities. However, now their use has been expanded to help those who suffer from mental illness and learning challenges as well. These intelligent animals can be trained to support people who are on the Autism spectrum as well as those who suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
Additionally, therapy animals are perfect for those who may experience a panic attack or a similar episode related to a stress disorder.
For a canine to be acknowledged as a service dog, as outlined in the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), they must be trained to be able to accomplish certain tasks. These tasks are directly connected to their person's disability. Although dogs who provide emotional support and comfort are important, they are not considered to be a service dog as they do not meet the task-oriented criteria.
Criteria in Getting Service Dog for Depression
To be able to get a service dog, a person with a disability (visible or invisible) has to meet one or more of the criteria outlined by the ADA. They must have a reduced physical or mental ability that affects them in their everyday lives. This disability should have a documented history and been assessed by qualified others who agree that the individual has an impairment that meets this definition.
Although a physical disability tends to be obvious, assessing an invisible one is different since the impairment is not easily noticeable. When discussing an invisible disability, doctors and mental health experts are referring to conditions that are both mental and neurological.
Many are completely unseen to an everyday passerby. Depression is included in this category of invisible disabilities. Thankfully, trained dogs will be able to notice these symptoms, even if they are related solely to stress or anxiety.
Assuming your depression follows the guidelines as set out by the ADA, you have the option of applying for a service dog to help support you with your disability.
Support, Therapy, or Service Dog for Depression?
If you are looking for a service dog, otherwise known as a psychiatric service dog, that is different than an emotional support dog or therapy dog. The ADA recognizes only the service dogs. This special dog is trained to understand and respond to their owner’s depression disability. The dog needs to perform a task that will help the handler. With a service designation, your dog is protected and allowed to be in public areas that normally a dog would not be allowed. It is a working animal, not a pet.
In contrast, there are emotional support animals that provide comfort to their owners but don’t actually perform tasks. They are allowed some legal access but not to the extent of a service dog. The third option is a therapy dog. They are trained to support various people, not just their handler. They visit people while they are in places such as hospitals or nursing homes.
While all three types of dogs are great supports for an individual with depression, a psychiatric service dog is the one with the most benefits and access. They are trained to make sure their handler takes their meds or gets help in a crisis.
How can a Service Dog Help my Depression?
The benefits of a service dog for your depression are many. They can help during a crisis, deal with emotional overload, or help with treatment. It is imperative they know a specific helping task so they can obtain their certification. They can:
How do I get a Service Dog for Depression?
If you suffer from depression and feel a service dog would benefit you, then you need a letter written by a licensed mental health professional. This letter should state that your depression affects your ability to perform everyday tasks. This means a psychiatrist, phycologist, or social worker must diagnose your mental illness. You will be required to be part of your dog's training, pay for their care, and upkeep and be in charge of your pup. You will need to pay for your dog for the most part, although many non-profit organizations offer free or lower cost dogs. Unfortunately,many of these have long waiting lists. You can also pay on your own for faster service. The good thing about getting your psychiatric service dog is that you never have to tell anyone what your disability is or show proof of it. Your dog is enough to say you have a disability.
Items to Have When you get Your Depression Service Dog
Your service dog will need items to designate them as a working dog in public as well as items to help them, help you. A service leash and harness are two of the most important items as they will keep both you and your dog safe and close by.
A Service Vest/Harness is very important for you and your service dog. It not only gives you appropriate control, but it also makes a clear statement that your dog is working and is not free for pets and play. These can be adapted with labeled Saddle Bags To help carry items that will help you.
Further to a simple trip around the block, your service dog will need items for when you travel farther away from home as they will be with you at all times. Make sure they have items for comfort and safety.
It's important to bring food and water along with:
Getting a service dog for depression is possible. If your depression is properly diagnosed and documented, you should be eligible for a service dog as outlined by the AMA. While it isn’t always an easy path to getting a service dog, it will be well worth it when it comes to supporting and maintaining your mental health.