Mental health is an important subject for everyone, but it should be especially emphasized for Veterans. The very nature of service and war presents a variety of unfortunate situations that position our nation’s heroes in stressful situations. This can lead to a range of disorders and negative mental side effects. The good news, however, is that there are plenty of ways for Veterans to receive help, like through Veteran art. Art therapy programs for Veterans offer some of the most creative solutions that help stimulate the mind, body, and spirit.
Veteran Art Provides Healing
Anyone can take part in healing arts, Vets included!
Art made by Veterans can encourage healing through therapeutic methods that help build confidence and skills. Art therapy among military service members and Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder is a great way to save lives because the sad reality is that an average of 22 Veterans take their own life each day in this country.
The use of art through therapy can help Veterans heal in a way simply using words will never be able to do. There is more room for creativity and expression that can be used as a release, communication, and again, to help develop skills that improve the mental state of Veterans suffering from mental health issues.
“Studies have shown the process of creating art has therapeutic benefits and discussing art can facilitate self-expression and lead to greater insight about oneself,” said Gina Trezza, a Creative Arts Therapist in charge of the Northport, VA, Medical Center’s Creative Art Therapy Program. “I work with the patient and we work together to identify therapeutic goals and the best ways to achieve them. Since art therapy does not rely on verbal communication alone, it enables a therapeutic rapport to develop with people who are unable or choose not to express their feelings in words, but who would benefit from having someone ‘bear witness’ to their experience,” Trezza continued.
Art therapy and PTSD Veterans work well together because this method allows for a disorder that can be difficult to put into words to be communicated in a different manner. Veterans drawing what they may not otherwise be able to explain can help resolve many issues. Such exercises can also help with other types of mental health traumas, such as sexual abuse, that can have negative effects on Veterans entering civilian life after service. Under the supervision of a trained professional, art therapy for Veterans provides a controlled environment and a safe space to tackle difficult subject matters.
Art Therapy Programs for Veterans
Beyond improving the mental health of Veterans, the physical health of ex-service members is still an important issue. Art therapy programs for Veterans can help improve motor skills and other injuries that may stem from traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are a number of things that can cause TBI, but violent crashes are the most common. Though medical professionals can help Veterans improve their health after suffering a TBI, serious side effects may still plague Veterans with difficulty concentrating, confusion, and blurred vision.
Veteran statistics for PTSD, TBI, depression, and suicide show that as many as 19% of Veterans could suffer from TBI. Through Veteran artwork and Veteran art programs, heroes can improve their physical and mental health in exciting, creative ways:
- The Veterans Art Project (VETART) has art therapy programs and classes to help Vets work through their traumas all while learning skills and enjoying a dignified display of their art projects.
- The American Healing Arts Foundation (AHAF) helps Veterans by using art as an outlet to further their craft, heal, and provide fine art to the public through its Veterans art showcase. This Veterans art gallery also offers free art classes open to all Veterans, no matter their walk of life, in a judgment-free environment.
- Often, art can be thought of as a particular style of painting or drawing. But art comes in many different shapes and forms including improv, storytelling, creative writing, stand-up comedy, and other performance arts. Thanks to the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP), Veterans can engage in workshops and hone their craft through creative means.
- At the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival, VA medical centers from across the country provide Veterans with a wide variety of arts and crafts. Veterans can compete in their respective art styles, such as drawing, painting, or leathermaking, with the winners of local competitions moving on to compete at the national level.
- The American Art Therapy Association (AATA) provides plenty of resources for Veterans and continues to help advocate for the use of Veteran art therapy as a viable solution to improve the mental health of returning military members.
- Partnering with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network from the National Endowment for the Arts is a nationwide program helping Veterans and their families overcome negative health issues after serving our country.
Now more than ever, Veterans have plenty of resources available to them, with statewide and national art therapy programs playing a significant role. Operation We Are Here has a ton of Veteran art programs that are perfect for helping in many different ways. Getting Veterans art into the forefront of the art community is helping destigmatize mental health issues, provide a healthy outlet for our heroes, and heal the invisible wounds that sometimes come after military service.