They can learn to do more than 50 assistive tasks, and are protected under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009.
Miss Garrahy received Sebastian the day she was discharged from hospital in July last year with help from her parents, former members of Brisbane’s Emmanuel Community.
Sebastian is required to undergo 18 months of training with Miss Garrahy and specialists from the Australian Companion and Assistance Dogs, an organisation on the Sunshine Coast.
Last month Sebastian passed his first public access test inside a local shopping centre and is now a certified assistance dog.
When Sebastian is more mature, he will be able to smell any chemical changes occurring in Miss Garrahy’s body and protect her from any potential danger.
While there is time before she makes a full recovery, including receiving dialectical behaviour therapy to treat her illness, Miss Garrahy said, with Sebastian, “it’s amazing how far I’ve come”.
But she warned that mental illness was destroying the lives of other people, including friends who lost their lives to suicide.
Mental illness is also the number-one issue identified in a new national survey for younger people.
Last week Mission Australia released data from a national survey of 24,000 people aged 15 to 19 to get an insight into their aspirations, values, concerns and ambitions. The survey found the main concern for one-third of the young people surveyed, about 33.7 per cent, was mental health.
That is more than double the number of young people who identified mental illness as a concern in Mission Australia’s 2015 survey.
Mission Australia chief executive officer James Toomey said the figures showed much more needed to be done to support young people with a mental illness.
“Young people need a co-ordinated, comprehensive and cohesive national response to ensure they can access the right mental health supports when they need them,” Mr Toomey said.
“It makes sense to invest in universal mental health programs in schools, as well as community-based mental health services, and to design services with young people to ensure they are youth-friendly.”
And that is exactly what Miss Garrahy intends to do if and when she makes a full recovery with her best friend.
“I want to work in mental health with adolescents and kids struggling with their illness,” she said.
“I know how much needs to change, seeing how little there is for teenagers with a mental illness. “Everyday people are trying to make a change in the mental health system but there’s a long way to go.”
WATCH: Gracie Garrahy, friends and family discuss life with a mental illness for a #GoFundSebastian campaign. Produced by Aesop Media.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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