'Lifesaving' Dog Helps Girl, 7, Cope Each Day
Hopatcong second-grader receives calming influence from pet to help control outbursts.
"You give me a quiet mind and I ... I love you."
Those are the lyrics 7-year-old Erinn Yori sang to her mom after first receiving treatment for her bipolar disorder.
It's also her inspiration for naming her new best friend and companion, Blue, an 8-month-old chocolate Labrador Retriever that has helped her with her mental illness and overcome her daily struggles.
The lyrics from the song "A Quiet Mind" by Yori's favorite band Blue October, describe how the Hopatcong second-grader felt after meeting Blue, her psychiatric service-dog-in-training that she has had since February.
Described by her mom, Nicole Yori, as a "lifesaver," Blue prevents Erinn Yori from daily tantrums and manic episodes that she has endured her whole life.
Diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 6 after showing signs of mental illness disorders since she was only 1 1/2 years old, Erinn Yori had been through many treatments, none of which stopped her tantrums like Blue has.
But when Erinn Yori met Blue when she was a 10-week-old puppy last winter, her life changed.
Her mother said she and her son, Ian, 9, were in constant fear of their lives because Erin was so physically digressive and violent with screaming threats at them during her manic episodes.
"She would go into a rage that would last between three and four hours, and they would happen three or four times a day, every day," Nicole Yori said. "She was very violent, very aggressive, she would make threats to kill, usually myself or her brother."
Ever since getting Blue, Nicole Yori said home has been a lot more peaceful, as the episodes are much less frequent, and a lot shorter.
Blue is able to detect a chemical shift in Erinn Yori's brain before she has a tantrum, and alerts both Erinn and her mother before an episode.
When Blue senses a shift, she starts rubbing her body against Erinn and walking in circles around her, trying to get her to sit down.
"She smells that shift and knows something's going to happen so she's trying to put my daughter in a safe position so that she can't hurt anybody," Nicole Yori said.
Since Blue came into the Yori home last winter, she has been training in the house with a personal trainer, and she will continue to be in training until next February.
Not only does Blue prevent Erinn Yori from going into episodes, but she is trained to alert her mom when it is time to give her daughter medications.
"It's easily the most incredible thing I've ever been a part of," Nicole Yori said.
Right now, while Blue is still training, she doesn't go out with the family often, but once she is verified, she will be going out in public with Erinn to school and accompanying her every where else.
Children and adults with mental illnesses around the country are also experiencing similar situations with service dogs like Blue.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 4 adults experience a mental health disorder, and about 5.7 million American adults are affected with bipolar disorder every year.
NAMI is recognizing the disorder this week with National Mental Illness Awareness week. Through different activities across the country, NAMI is working to raise awareness of the illnesses that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans everyday.
A second-grader at Tulsa Trail, Erinn Yori's life has changed drastically since meeting her new best friend while facing the disorder. Her mom says the dog is "more of a person than a pet" to Erinn, and she is much happier now.
Nicole Yori created the Facebook page Erinn's Blue Rainbow, which shares Erinn's story and experiences with Blue. She is hoping for it to eventually become a non-profit organization.
"The difference is absolutely unreal," Nicole Yori said of having Blue in the house. "Just knowing that we can go out, knowing that we can go places, knowing that we can do things, and the dog is there."