This year, World Suicide Prevention Day is recognized on Thursday, September 10th. World Suicide Prevention Day is an opportunity to join together, share positive messages, and raise awareness that suicide can be prevented.
As an organization that regularly works with children who often face difficulties with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and other mental health conditions, we believe that it’s important to spread education and awareness about suicide on World Suicide Prevention Day and beyond.
"“You can make a difference – as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbor. There are many things that you can do daily, and also on World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD), to prevent suicidal behavior. You can raise awareness about the issue, educate yourself and others about the causes of suicide and warning signs for suicide, show compassion and care for those who are in distress in your community, question the stigma associated with suicide, suicidal behavior, and mental health problems, and share your own experiences.”
- International Association for Suicide Prevention
As part of the mission of W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, we train psychiatric service dogs for kids with certain mental health diagnoses. While a stigma still exists around mental health in today’s society, openly discussing mental health disorders has become more common over the past few years. This also means that more people have turned towards animals to help them cope with their conditions, be them service dogs, emotional support dogs, or therapy dogs.
At W.A.G.S. 4 Kids, we train psychiatric service dogs. It’s important to distinguish the difference and recognize that service dogs are not the same as emotional support animals or therapy dogs. In each of these groups, the dog has a different job or goal. Service dogs are the only group recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as having public access rights to provide task assistance to aid individuals with disabilities.
"The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog's mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA."
Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs, on the other hand, are categorized as pets. Therapy dogs provide emotional support and comfort to many people, while an emotional support animal’s primary function is to provide emotional support through companionship.
We train our psychiatric service dogs to perform various comforting tasks, such as “hug,” “love,” and “cuddle,” - body positions which act similarly to an unconditionally loving weighted blanket. They provide aid to their child partner struggling with their mental health, as well as support, comfort, independence, confidence, and more. While we don’t classify our service dogs as tools for suicide prevention, they are a tool for mental health support – and they certainly change lives.
A simple, yet remarkably impactful way, that you can make a difference today is by supporting one of our Kids In Need who are currently fundraising to receive a psychiatric service dog. COVID-19 has changed everyone's life significantly, but the children who suffer from mental health conditions are especially struggling to adapt to the unpredictability and uncertainty of daily life, which makes finding support for them more important than ever.
Please take some time to learn more about these children below.