Monday, January 27, 2014

Mental Health Awareness & The Lola Project

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. With my mom being a mental health nurse and my grandma working as a social worker with children with behavioral health disorders, I want to continue to spread awareness on this topic. 

Did you know that 1 in 4 adults experiences mental illness in a given year, that is roughly 57.7 million people ages 18 and older (1). And 1 in 17 live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar (1).  

While medications are the main course of treatment, more and more of my furry companions are being trained to support and help those with mental health disorders.

Psychiatric service dogs are a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handlers who struggle with psychiatric disabilities, such as, but not limited to post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and autism spectrum disorders (2)

Here are some of the many tasks that these dogs can be trained to do for their handler (2):
  • Assist handlers within their home and in public.
  • Remind their owners to take medication.
  • Wake their handlers for school or work.
  • Assist in coping with emotional overload by bringing handler into the "here and now."
  • Provide a buffer or a shield for the handler in crowded areas by creating a physical boundary.
  • Extinguish flashbacks by bringing handler into the here and now.
  • Orient during panic/anxiety attack.
  • Search dwelling.
  • Stand behind handler to increase the feelings of safety, reduce hyper-vigilance, and decrease the likelihood of the handler being startled by another person coming up behind them.


Psychiatric service dogs provide so much more then what can be trained such as (2):

  • Relief from feelings of isolation.
  • An increased sense of well-being.
  • Daily structure and healthy habits.
  • An increased sense of security, self-efficacy, self-esteem, and sense of purpose.
  • Mood improvement and increased optimism.
  • A secure and uncomplicated relationship.
  • A dependable and predictable love, affection and nonjudgmental companionship.
  • Motivation to exercise.
  • Encouragement for social interactions.
  • Reduction in debilitating symptoms.
  • Around the clock support. 
Lola from The Lola Project
(Photo courtesy of The Lola Project)
With that being said I would like to introduce to you 

The Lola Project works on raising awareness about mental health and the benefits of psychiatric service dogs. 

Meet Lola! Here she is on the left at 10 weeks old and her  this past summer.
(Photo courtesy of The Lola Project)

Due to the negative stigma associated with mental health most people with mental illness go unnoticed, untreated, and/or looked upon as taboo. It is their goal to help people understand the importance of banding together to support education and the resources necessary to shine the limelight on mental health and stomp out the stigma.

By working together and utilizing these resources, it is their hope that we will be able to work as a nation wide community to educate, treat those in need and prevent/deter tragedies that may stem from the misunderstanding of mental illness or lack of treatment.

Lola in her harness that reads, "Psychiatric Service Dog."
(Photo courtesy of The Lola Project)
Here is their mission statement:
"Our mission is to raise awareness and educate as many people as possible about mental health and illness, the significant benefits of psychiatric service dogs, and leave paw prints on the hearts of those we have the privilege of helping and educating, while first handedly developing a module for training psychiatric service dogs especially for our Veterans."

Lola helping train the next generation.
(Photo courtesy of  The Lola Project)
The Lola Project wouldn't be possible without their sponsors supporting this important and wonderful cause. Their sponsors are: Paws of Distinction, Dirty Dogs Pet Services, 1800-PetMeds, and Robibero Family Vineyards. The more we are able to educate the public, the more organizations like The Lola Project can be funded. Giving individuals who suffer from a mental illness access, not only to psychiatric service dogs, but to other resources they need to be successful in life.

I encourage you to learn more about The Lola Project: Website, Facebook page, Twitter account, or Etsy Shop.  

If you would like to help support The Lola Project you can either donate or purchase fundraising merchandise.
(Photo courtesy of The Lola Project)
*Side Note: Check out video of Lola at work and some of the different tasks she is trained to do at their Facebook page.

(1) National Alliance of Mental Illness
 (http://www.nami.org/factsheets/mentalillness_factsheet.pdf)

(2) Mental Health Assistance Dogs
(http://www.mentalhealthdogs.org/Psychiatric-Service-Dogs.html)

22 comments:

  1. The Lola project sounds great and we think therapy dogs do a wonderful job. Have a marvellous Monday Spencer.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. I wish there were more resources available to train dogs to help individuals!

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  2. We will definitely look into the Lola Project further. Our Dad has a bi-polar disorder, and while we are about as far from being service dogs as you can get, we know that we provide Dad with mental security and comfort when he needs it. Thanks for making people aware of this!

    *kissey face*
    -Fiona and Abby the Hippobottomus

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    1. It is amazing how dogs can motive and comfort/ground you at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  3. What a wonderful program! We have mental illness in our family too. We know that there are many affected and most just don't realize it.

    Your Pals,

    Murphy and Stanley

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    1. It is surprising how many people suffer but tell anyone because of the stigma associated with mental illness. Some day I hope we can break the stigma.

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  4. I LOVE this program. It's such a great idea!

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    1. We love it too! It's important to support programs like this! :)

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  5. Great post about an awesome program, Spencer!
    Oz

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  6. Great post Spencer! It sounds like a wonderful project that help people that tend to be forgotten! There was a PTSD therapy dog that was on campus the other week, it was the first time I had seen these types of service dogs. Hopefully more will see the benefits of these great furry companions!

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    1. Hopefully through education and supporting organizations like The Lola Project we can continue to spread the word!

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  7. It sounds like a great projekt with some really awesome dogs to help.

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  8. LOVE this program and Golden Thanks for sharing. It's a similar program to our TD group where Sugar n I visits adult facilities. PAWsome project Golden Woofs

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    1. Thank you, I hope to share other programs and projects to spread the word of great people and dogs doing great work.

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  9. That is awesome. Mom always says that we keep her motivated and on days where she is really down and doesn't want to get up, we come along and pick her up. Great project you support! Sharing!

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    1. It is amazing how much dogs have an affect on their humans! :)

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  10. this was a fantastic and most necessary post. My step daughter has spina bifida and also suffers from bipolar and other mental health issues. She goes to a mental health clubhouse every day. I wish she could have a dog like this dog. Wonderful!

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  11. What a great post Spencer. It's true. Not all disabilities are visible. Very well said.

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    1. Plus mental health is so neglected in the health care system, it is rather frustrating.

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  12. I'd like to see organizations provide service dogs for survivors of sexual assault. This population is the 2nd leading group suffering from PTSD (after veterans) and do not deserve to be excluded from access to service dogs.

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