World Suicide Prevention Day, observed on September 10th each year, aims to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 700,000 suicides per year worldwide. “Creating Hope Through Action” is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. This theme serves as a powerful call to action and a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through our actions, we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.
The question so many face is HOW.
Non-profit Northwest Battle Buddies is finding success with a very important partner: service dogs. CEO and Founder Shannon Walker recognizes the unique bond between humans and animals and how canines provide unconditional love, support, and therapeutic benefits. Through expertly trained service dogs, Veterans find solace, companionship, and increased emotional stability, aiding their recovery and enhancing their overall well-being. Of the 212+ teams of service dogs paired with Veterans who suffer from PTSD, the success rate for preventing suicide is 100%.
Northwest Battle Buddies Service Dogs mitigate symptoms of PTSD by:
- Interrupting anxiety attacks
- Redirecting flashbacks
- Alerting on adrenaline
- Providing social barriers in public
- Performing pressure therapy
- Providing security and safety
You may ask, what is a Battle Buddy? In the United States Army, soldiers are assigned a partner – or “battle buddy” – as a friend and ally to assist one another in and out of combat. Northwest Battle buddies are not only for companionship and to watch one another’s back but also for the reduction of suicide, keying into negative thoughts and feelings, and stepping in to help. Northwest Battle Buddies is based on that principle of mutual assistance — a service dog and a Veteran depend on one another for support and care.
“Service dogs can be the difference between life and death. I’ve listened to stories from other Veterans, and I hear the pain in their voices and see it in their eyes. As an empathetic person, I feel their pain almost like it’s my own. And having the presence of a service dog to help buffer those feelings of pain – it’s powerful,” says Combat Veteran DL, whose companion is Northwest Battle Buddies service dog Atlas.
Many American Heroes return home to find their greatest battle still awaits as they battle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the debilitating effects that often lead to thoughts of suicide. Service dogs make a difference. There is no cure for PTSD; however, with a canine Battle Buddy by their side, Veterans with PTSD can reduce their symptoms with life-changing results.
These professionally trained dogs perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a chronic disability who cannot perform the work or task independently from him or herself, help a person to redirect their emotions, and calm a person with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack. These actions by the service dog include waking their Veteran from nightmares, interrupting anxiety attacks, redirecting flashbacks, alerting on adrenaline, providing a social barrier in public, performing pressure therapy, and providing a constant feeling of safety.
The service dogs spend 5+ months in intensive training, then are carefully matched with a Veteran handler for five more weeks of training and bonding, creating the ultimate partnership.
Shannon urges veterans to “Never quit, never give up.” She goes on to say, “It is our hope that the day before a Veteran meets their service dog is their last worst day… and the day they meet their service dog it is their best first day.”
“There is so much preparation, dedication and hard work as the dogs are either adopted or bred. The pups are raised in carefully selected foster homes for 8-12 months and then the dogs enter their 5 months of professional training. The final step is selecting the Veterans that will be paired with the dogs to then enter their 5 weeks of training. This is where the “magic” happens. The instant the Veterans meet their dogs the walls start to come down, the tears start to flow, and they begin to truly hope again and start to believe that a future of freedom and independence is within their grasp. Northwest Battle Buddies National Model invests the longest training time for their dogs and their Veterans in the industry. Excellence is the standard for our dogs and our Veterans, they deserve nothing less,” shares Shannon.
How the Public Can Help:
- Join Operation Never Quit (ONQ22) and pledge $22+ monthly to provide a professionally trained service dog to a veteran.
- Additional volunteer options found on their website include Amazon Charity List, custom fundraisers, fostering a puppy, the Freedom Gala, memorials and registries, becoming a sponsor, requesting a speaker, and more.
Northwest Battle Buddies was founded to support veterans. They have been gifting professionally trained service dogs since 2012, with over 200 working teams. Visit their website for more information.