MILITARY VETERAN WITH PTSD SAYS SUPPORT DOG ‘SAVED HIS LIFE’

Source:  BBC News (Extract)
Posted:  March 11 2021

A military veteran suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder believes being paired with a support dog saved his life.

Craig Smith from Bournemouth, a Royal Marine for nearly eight years, reached out to Service Dogs UK for help after attempting to take his own life.

The charity pair rescue dogs with former military and emergency service personnel with PTSD.

It’s now looking to help more people struggling to cope with civilian life.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events.

Mr Smith said the condition caused the breakdown of his marriage and in July last year he attempted to take his own life.

‘Changed my life’

After surviving he wanted to turn his life around and contacted Service Dogs UK and was paired with a dog called Bella.

The dogs are trained to recognise stress triggers and provide companionship and support in coping with civilian life.

“Since having Bella I’m not scared of going to sleep anymore” said Mr Smith.

“She changed my life phenomenally, I can finally see a future and I can finally see there is life – even with PTSD. It’s a lifelong journey but we’re going to do it together.”

He said Bella has given him the confidence he lacked to go to large public places and helped him deal with his disassociation and night terrors.

Service Dogs UK is now looking to help more people, within a 90-minute drive of Yeovil, who are in need of support and are encouraging them to get in touch.

Nigel Rousell from the charity says the programme is partnered with the Dog’s Trust to “put two kindred souls together who’ve been a bit down on their luck”.

The dogs are assessed and trained up in foster homes before being matched with a veteran.

Mr Rousell wants veterans to not be ashamed of their PTSD and encouraged service personnel suffering from the condition to get in touch with Service Dogs UK.

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