Breaking through the stigma of mental illness with psychiatric
service dogs and well educated, teen mental health advocates.
Working together with Mental Health America and Teen Talk, TESSD created a comprehensive curriculum that brings together a group of students identified by your school counselor that have a desire to talk openly about inside struggles. TESSD Teen Advocate Program is a six week, after school program, comprised of Mental Health Peer Advocate Training and Psychiatric Service Dog Training. The curriculum includes weekly assignments that cover the major mental illnesses that the students are most likely to encounter in their community. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, psychosis, eating disorders, and recovery are some of the topics that will be touched upon. Through each conversation, the goal is to teach the teens that all of these illnesses or disabilities feel differently to everyone, that each person’s struggle is their own. Teens learn how to use effective listening skills to support their peers, as well as when and how to help a peer access professional help if needed. We teach the students tools to lend a compassionate, trustworthy ear and even further the conversation with their own experiences. The program also teaches healthy self-care practices that can help manage everyday stress. Once completed it allows the students to walk the halls with our dogs and offer peer to peer support. Not only do students open up about their stresses, but also get comfort from petting the dog.
IN-SCHOOL SERVICE DOGS
The Exceptional Sidekick Service Dogs (TESSD) in Newtown, CT encourages both public and private schools, that have a strong desire to support their students’ mental health, to implement our In-school Service Dog & Teen Advocate Program. TESSD is one of the only organizations to provide exceptional psychiatric service dogs to teens and young adults with disabilities such as PTSD, Severe Depression, or Severe Anxiety Disorders. We have an unwavering commitment to making sure that students living with a mental illness are able to get service dogs. They should not have a limited education because of a disability that can be mitigated, helping them return to school, improving attendance, and attend college as part of their future plan; all resulting in the ability to live independently.