On Veterans Day we thank those that have served our country selflessly, however, we don’t reflect enough on the suffering that can come with being a Vet; the fallout. The leveling and life-altering experiences they must endure are beyond the comprehension of many of us. Yet, they are encouraged to come back and integrate into “normal life” as if nothing happened.
Out Vets are living with limited resources, lack of support, and in a place of minimal understanding of what they carry in their souls. The number of nightmares, C-PTSD/PTSD, anxiety, depression, homelessness, traumatic brain injuries and so much more not only plague the general population but also deeply affect our Vets. This news can be very saddening as well as life can start to feel hopeless for those that suffer.
Creative Expression Can Heal Our Deepest Wounds
However, we can work on ways to help decrease nightmares, calm down C-PTSD/PTSD, relax anxiety, soothe depression and so much more with the simple act of creative expression. I know it sounds too good to be true, but there is science as well as many personal accounts of people’s lives being saved and improved by creative expression. Since our focus on this site is the act of healing through creative expression, we felt touching base on ways that Vets can find support through creativity might be helpful.
Also, it is important to note that many people, Vets included, suffer in silence. Mental health issues, as well as trauma, are stigmatized. People are afraid to get help because they worry about losing their jobs, being seen as weak, and of course just trying to navigate and avoid the stigma associated with these challenges. However, if we normalize these human emotions and experiences we can all come to a better place. Hiding things only amplifies the damage that is done. Bringing light, hope, and support can help heal a wounded soldier.
Supportive & Educational TED Talk
I recently listened to this Ted Talk “Art Can Heal PTSD’s Invisible Wounds” (Video Below), and I felt compelled to write about this topic and to be able to share with others this particular TED talk and the resources we have gathered. Here are some words from the speaker, Melissa Walker:
“Trauma silences its victims,” says creative arts therapist Melissa Walker, “but art can help those suffering from the psychological wounds of war begin to open up and heal.” In this inspiring talk, Walker describes how mask-making, in particular, allows afflicted servicemen and women to reveal what haunts them — “and, finally, start to let it go.”
Melissa worked with Vets in the creative act of mask making. They were able to funnel their pain into something real and express themselves without judgment. One vet even said “After 23 years, I was able to put my PTSD and TBI in one place and I can no talk about it more openly. It feels like a block has been removed.” You can feel his gratitude as he starts to tear up. watch the video below to hear this amazing talk by Melissa Walker.
Legislation & Advocates
We are moving into a place to better understand how we can serve the men and women who served us. We even have had legislators advocate creative therapies for Vets.
Senator Bob Graham (FL) emphasized the value of art therapy with US veterans in The Congressional Record, stating: “Art therapists provide effective treatment and health maintenance intervention for veterans, focusing on all of their life challenges, such as mental, physical, and cognitive impairments. Intense emotion and memory, often difficult to convey in words, often are more easily expressed in images with the guidance of a trained clinician…Given the number of veterans gradually returning from the current war in Iraq, art therapy has the potential to assist them as a form of rehabilitation.”
American Art Therapy Association
According to the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), veterans who participate in art therapy report that it helps them understand and cope with symptoms, enhances their strengths and abilities to reenter their communities and improves their outlook on life. Here are a few quotes from our nation’s Veterans about the value of art therapy:
(Quotes below from: American Art Therapy Association (AATA)
Roy Meaders of Topeka, KS, a Veteran who spent four and one-half months in Vietnam, and who was awarded the CIB Purple Heart and Bronze Star writes: “Art therapy gave me a non-threatening place for social interaction. But more than that, it helped me to express my feelings through my artwork and has given me the confidence to pursue other activities, helping me to develop the skill needed to become an accomplished artist. It also gave me the right to meet my congressman and to speak to the national news broadcast. Art Therapy changed my life and the lives of my PTSD peers.”
Steve Piscatelli, a Vietnam Veteran, worked for several years with doctors who wanted to explore his childhood. “If art therapy programs had been there when I returned from Vietnam, I would have taken advantage of them and would most likely be able to work today, but I suffered with it too long. The government should have reentry programs with art therapy — it works wonders. You have to purge the sound, the smell, the feel in your fingers otherwise you grit your teeth and might end up exploding. There are good men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that need to get the poisons out, clean the wounds of war –- it will help them talk about and purge the gruesome events so that they can heal. The faster you get art therapy treatment the fewer problems there are down the road — and you need follow-up — that’s the operant word, follow-up art therapy is very important too.”
Creatity Promotes Wholeness
Creativity is healing and helps people find wholeness in the places they feel are damaged. Vets who suffer from nightmares, C-PTSD/PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. can find hope and healing in creative expression as seen above with the gratitude of both Steve Piscatelli and Roy Meaders who are only a few people that art therapy and creative expression as helped.
PTSD Can Treated
Not just do Vets deal with nightmares, C-PTSD/PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other things that ail us, we are all vulnerable to the possibility of having to deal with one or many of these challenges parts of life. However, knowing this is support out there helps. You can work with a certified art therapist, work on your creativity with a mentor and even have a very personal practice that is only for you.
More Supportive Article
We also found some other supportive articles. “Art is my therapy”; Art by Veterans showcased at Art on the Bricks Art Walk, A Review of Art Therapy Among Military Service Members and Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, and a wonderful PDF article “Art Therapsy, PTSD & Vetrans” from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA).