I wrote this to share with my psychiatrist, and I thought I’d share it with all of you, too. Thanks to Kat for the “dickless prick” phrasing. I thought we had established my background, but it seems like we/you need a bit of a refresher, so here we go. I used to be a pharmacist. […]A Dickless Prick: A Letter to My Psychiatrist — Mental Health @ Home
Friday was my last day of dealing with the half-deaf psychiatrist who was covering while my regular doctor has been away. Half-deaf dude was fond of asking about the tedious minutiae of events from 15 years ago, and wanting me to come up with hypothetical what ifs also related to things from 15 years ago. […]Tales from the Psych Ward Part VI — Mental Health @ Home
My usual psychiatrist on this ward is away this week, so I’m seeing a different psychiatrist for the week. Right off the bat he told me he’s hard of hearing and uses hearing aids along with some other device thingy to amplify sound. My speech is really soft, and it’s hard for people of normal […]Tales from the Psych Ward Part V — Mental Health @ Home
This is a more positive post than the last couple have been. I had my second ECT treatment this morning, and there was no talk of involving security. The anaesthesiologist didn’t make a fuss at all about giving me the anaesthetic that I doesn’t give me side effects, which was a relief. Yesterday I talked […]Tales from the Psych Ward Part III — Mental Health @ Home
So, where to begin? Things began trending sharply downhill around Christmas. Hospital was something I considered but really didn’t want to do, given the negative experiences I’ve had before. Things picked up a bit in February, but then crashed back down. I had a meltdown that exploded in the direction of an unfortunate friend (now […]Tales from the Psych Ward — Mental Health @ Home
Service dogs have a long history of providing assistance to people with physical challenges and are increasingly used to aid those with psychiatric challenges. Psychiatric service dogs are extensively trained to perform specific tasks to meet the individualized needs of their handler and are permitted access to public places in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).1
Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to assist people living with bipolar disorder as well as other mental health challenges, including autism, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and panic disorder. The tasks a service dog is trained to perform to aid someone living with bipolar disorder depend on the individual’s circumstances and personal challenges and needs.
The Role of Service Dogs for Bipolar Disorder
The ultimate function of a psychiatric service dog is to alleviate or diminish the negative effects of bipolar disorder on the handler’s life. Examples of tasks a dog might be trained to perform for its human partner include:
- Bring medication or remind their partner to take prescribed medicine at a specific time(s)
- Awaken their partner at a specific time each day
- Remind their partner to go to bed at a specific time to keep sleep cycles regular
- Bring a portable phone to their partner or call 9-1-1 if the handler exhibits behaviors that might indicate a manic episode or severe depression
- Interrupt potentially dangerous behaviors in their partner by nudging, nagging, or distracting with play
- Alert the handler to the telephone, doorbell, or smoke alarm if their partner is asleep or possibly sedated due to medication
- Calm or interrupt hypomanic or manic behaviors by leaning into their partner, or placing their head in the handler’s lap
- Provide a link to reality if their partner experiences delusions during a manic episode2
While not considered a service dog function per se, the emotional support provided by a canine helper is often as valuable as the tasks the animal performs.
The presence of the dog can also help ground an individual with bipolar disorder and introduce a sense of stability and routine.
Laws Relating to Service Dogs
It is important to note that to qualify for the protections and allowances of the ADA, both the individual and the canine must meet specific criteria. In short, an individual must have a disability and a service dog must be specifically trained to meet the needs imposed by that disability.
- An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
- The ADA defines a service animal like a dog individually trained to do work or perform specific tasks to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If a dog meets this definition, it is considered a service animal under the ADA, regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.3
Importantly, a psychiatric service dog differs from an emotional support dog, also called a comfort dog. While emotional support dogs certainly provide love, companionship, and comfort to their human partners, they are not trained to perform specific tasks that aid the handler in daily functioning. As such, emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA.3
If you’re living with bipolar disorder and considering getting a psychiatric service dog or an emotional support dog, talk with your doctor to determine what type of canine companion is best for you. A psychiatric service dog involves a considerable financial commitment because of the extensive training required, which may take up to two years to complete. Depending on your specific needs, however, you may consider this an invaluable investment.
What is disability?
A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. The Disability Services Act (1993) defines ‘disability’ as meaning a disability:
- which is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments
- which is permanent or likely to be permanent
- which may or may not be of a chronic or episodic nature
- which results in substantially reduced capacity of the person for communication, social interaction, learning or mobility and a need for continuing support services.
With the assistance of appropriate aids and services, the restrictions experienced by many people with a disability may be overcome.
Types of disability
The main categories of disability are physical, sensory, psychiatric, neurological, cognitive and intellectual. Many people with disability have multiple disabilities.
A physical disability is the most common type of disability, followed by intellectual and sensory disability. Physical disability generally relates to disorders of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems.
Sensory disability involves impairments in hearing and vision.
Neurological and cognitive disability includes acquired disability such as multiple sclerosis or traumatic brain injury. Intellectual disability includes intellectual and developmental disability which relate to difficulties with thought processes, learning, communicating, remembering information and using it appropriately, making judgments and problem solving. Intellectual disability is the result of interaction between developmentally attributable cognitive impairment, attitudinal and environmental barriers.
Psychiatric disorders resulting in disability may include anxiety disorders, phobias or depression.