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How Art Can Help Veterans Live A Better Life After PTSD

Since 2001, approximately 2.6 million American service members were deployed to serve in the military. Research from the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs of suggests that 18% of veterans from recent deployment return home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. As a result, the intense feelings of fear, depression, and nightmares affect their daily lives after duty. That is where Art therapy comes in.

Sanford “Sandy” Bier, a former Army medic during the Korean War, mentions how he drew whimsical cartoons to depict the life of his comrades. Now 92, Bier inked his artwork during and after the war, says it helped him calm his focus away from the negative and held what had meant most.  

Meeting their needs

Gaining attention as a beneficial treatment for psychological issues connected to the military service, art therapy can help veterans transition to civilian life by aiding those who have trouble engaging in the verbal approach to treatment. Every soldier has a story to tell and perhaps some that they are trying to forget. In that case, art therapy helps to turn specific events into a canvas where they come to resolve the problem. They may help them move to a place where they might dream about those occurrences and take control over it instead. Not to mention, art therapy can aid in recovery on a structural level.

Making a change

Art therapy serves as a gateway for change. Retired duty members can establish a new sense of self-discovery, productivity, and efficiency rather than build up feelings of isolation and depression. Art can be combined with healthcare in the forms of dancing, writing music, painting or drawing cartoons, sculpting, and more. No matter what the art form may be, studies find that art therapy can enhance self-coping and reduce the need for pain medication, hospital care, rehab, and additional costs. Not to mention, the significant reduction in depression and anxiety for those who have experienced high-stress environments and situations while on active duty.

Treating unseen injuries

Artmaking allows veterans to “go with the flow” and let art take the lead. In special ways, art helps treat pain and injuries that cannot be physically seen but intangible to explain. Thus, research claims that creative arts can contribute to positive outcomes when integrated into community prevention, medical aid, and wellness programs. Veterans can use art in different ways to transition to civilian life by processing post-traumatic stress disorder, to grieve losses, or work through post-duty identity issues.

Art helps soldiers to communicate what they often leave unsaid. What they create is often a depiction of what they’re going through, how it helps them gain insight into their issues, behaviors, symptoms, and most importantly, themselves. 

Visit our job board regularly to find companies that have positions available offering jobs for veterans, and follow our blog and social media profiles for tips on how to transition to civilian life. 

By Lucy Wyndham