Art therapy helps veterans combat PTSD

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KANSAS CITY, Mo – Artwork is helping many veterans to deal with mental health challenges like Post traumatic stress disorder, which is among the toughest challenge veterans face when they return home.

Many are taking art classes at the VA Medical Center, where this week they showcased their recoveries in an art show.

Some veterans say art therapy works just as well as medication they take to treat depression or other mental illnesses.

Jim Dutcher never realized he had a talent for painting, until taking classes at the Vet Center. Some of the art created by veterans is good, and a few actually have been able to sell their works as artists. Not many would publicly admit battling mental health problems a couple of years ago. Now, this art fair is a way for them to combat the stigma often associated with a mental illness diagnosis.

"It keeps your mind off of your problems," Dutcher said. "You work also at home. It helps you relax and not take so much medication."

This art therapy helps veterans in other aspects of their lives and enables them to find new meaning after serving their country. By focusing on an outlet, hobby or art, they avoid dwelling on their problems and living in the past.

"It's really any veteran who has a mental health or substance abuse issue," said Stana Eager, local recovery coordinator for the VA Medical Center. "Art is a very therapeutic outlet and the activity we're doing today, with this art fair, we're also trying to decrease stigma around mental health and mental illness and show that veterans who have mental health problems are more than just their diagnosis."

About 20 veterans are displaying their artwork at the VA Medical Center. For some who've never picked up a paintbrush until now, they say the results, both on canvas and in their lives have been remarkable.

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