December 28,2015

Art helps heal Veterans

Sun1“Art is a wound turned into light.”

For service members the transition out of the military and into to civilian life can present significant stress. For combat veterans, this transition can be filled with countless complicated physical and emotional challenges and the statistics are alarming.

  • 14% of service member returning from Iraq or Iran meet the criteria for depression
  • One in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTSD
  • The suicide rate among recent veterans was 50% higher than for nonmilitary civilians

Though therapy is available, many often feel there is a stigma in seeking mental health treatment.  And the prescribed medications often have complicating side effects. One solution without stigma and side effects: Art.  Fortunately, there is a growing focus on the value of the arts in treating veterans’ health challenges and significant efforts are taking place across the country.

The National Endowment for the Arts and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center have formed a partnership to review how arts programs can improve health in military healthcare settings.  There is also the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military led by Americans for the Arts.  Thanks to the increased awareness from these and other sources, there are new and creative programs that offer a wide range of art therapies.

It is important to remember, art has a broad definition and includes all forms of personal expression including music, dance, drama, theater, literature, painting, sculpture, photography, crafts, film, creative writing, and even comedy.  It is the latter that is creating some buzz, and laughs, in the Hampton Roads Area.

Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) is launching their second Comedy Bootcamp this fall.  The camp offers an eight-week stand-up comedy workshop exclusively for veterans to help them express themselves, give them an outlet to nurture their talent and tell their story through comedy.

Some regional VA centers are starting programs of their own, such as the From War to Home: Through the Veteran’s Lens from the Philadelphia VAUsing a method called Photovoice, veterans are given a camera and asked to tell their stories though pictures of their daily lives.  The compilations of images offer a very personal, insightful, and sometimes heart wrenching glimpse of the health, economic, and emotional challenges many veterans face.