Mental Health Disorders Should Be Eligible For Assistance Dogs
My name is Stephanie Zikmann, and I have battled with Chronic Depression and Anxiety for 16 years!
You may have seen me in local newspapers or on BBC Scotland's 'The Nine' talking about how the dogs in my life have helped me fight anxiety and depression. After 12 years of medication and counselling, feeling defeated, weak and worthless I decided to take a leap of faith and really test the healing qualities of dogs. One year post-experiment, I am medication-free and life is only getting better!
This petition started after my journey through my own mental health condition.
But it's not a petition for me... it is a petition for everyone who sufffers an extreme mental health disorder and feels that an assistance dog would help to support their every day activities.
Currently there are no rights to an assistance dog in Scotland for people with severe Mental health disorders. In England, there are Psychiatric Assistance Dog charities that require applicants to have an additional known disability to be eligible. These dogs are trained at the owners own expense and no funding is available. Why shouldn’t MHD be enough for eligibility? Why shouldn’t those with severe conditions be granted the same funding opportunities?
In Scotland, there are no Psychiatric Assistance Dog charities and having a mental health disorder is not considered to be enough to entitle a person to an assistance dog.
Many of us with such conditions know the love from our companion animals help keep us going - in an ideal world, we would be able to provide our own dogs with the mandatory training required to qualify them as our assistance dogs. Tasks like sending an anxiety attack, helping to provide social backing in social environments, offering us comfort at times of real despair, providing us with a sense of purpose.
I am campaigning for Assistance Dog UK to change the way they decide who is eligible and recognise Mental Health Disorders not just as "disorders" but as "disabilities" serious enough to be granted the same rights.
"it's not about building a great wall, it's about laying a brick, as perfect as it can possibly be laid and keep laying those bricks... and one day you have a wall" - Will Smith.