Helping Veterans Heal Through Arts And Humanities

Oct 9, 2019

Many military veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries, and various traumas related to military service. The number of active military and veterans who have seen combat is on the rise as is the suicide rate for our military members once they are back home. Traditional post-war treatments have met with varying degrees of success. Today, the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development’s Division of the Arts, along with the National Endowment for the Humanities and Americans for the Arts, hosted the Louisiana Military and Veterans Arts and Humanities Summit at the New Orleans Jazz Museum. The goal was to bring key Louisiana stakeholders together to learn about programs and services offered through the arts and humanities that may improve a veteran’s chances of reintegration into civilian life. Those in attendance represented decision-makers and stakeholders from Louisiana State Government, Elected Officials, Military and Veterans organizations along with leaders from the state’s arts and humanities communities.

“Every day in the United States, approximately 22 veterans commit suicide as they fight for healing and reintegration back into civilian life. It’s a rate that is climbing as more veterans return from tours of duty. I am thankful for the service of our military and feel honored to be a part of this summit to ensure everyone knows about the programs available to help the men and women who protect our freedom work to find healing through the arts,” said Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser.

Studies have shown a majority of service men and women suffer some form of PTSD. The preferred method of treatment for PTSD patients in traditional health systems is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is effective in treating re-experiencing and hyper-vigilance, but not as effective in treating avoidance and emotional numbing.

Traumatic events are often difficult to express, art therapy offers a different approach to allow for individual self-expression. This may be accomplished using various art activities, including: drawing, painting, and photography. Art therapy aims for participants to share their experience in a safe healing environment, which ultimately helps improve upon their behavioral and mental health. Existing research indicates that art therapy shows promising treatment results among service members for their related traumas. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is the use of artwork to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.”

Through today’s summit, attendees were provided an understanding of the value of the arts, humanities, and creative art therapies for members of the military and their families. It was an opportunity to learn which programs already exist, how groups can partner with others, and how these programs can expand to better serve an increasing number of military veterans.

 The Louisiana Military & Veterans Arts & Humanities Summit was made possible in part through grant funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.