Many veterans return from war with physical injuries. Even more return with unseen wounds.
In 2016, the Department of Veteran Affairs reported that the United States averages 20 veteran suicides per day. Moreover, veterans now account for 18% of all suicides in America, despite making up less than 9% of the population.
CreatiVets is actively working to change those statistics. The nonprofit aims to empower veterans to see their own capacity for success in an arena outside the battlefield, specifically in art expression.
The mission of CreatiVets is to identify veterans who struggle with PTSD and other mental health disorders, and to provide opportunities for them to use art to aid the healing process. The organization doesn’t require an official or medical diagnosis; all veterans can be considered for participation.
“It’s hard to express in words how I felt after the program, but I know I let go of something deep,” a veteran participant said. “I feel that this experience is going to allow me to maintain that positive attitude while giving me the courage to live a meaningful life with my children.”
Richard Casper, Co-Founder of CreatiVets, experienced the healing power of the arts firsthand. As an infantryman, Richard served in Iraq with the Marine Corps. He was hit 4 separate times by IEDs, suffered multiple concussions, and was ultimately diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury.
After participating in ceramics and painting courses, Richard was amazed at how quickly he began to experience a positive change. The benefits continued as he picked up guitar and started to write songs, opening another outlet for creative expression through which he could heal.
“It was like I’d found this loophole. I found a way to talk about it, without talking about it,” he said. “Discovering concept-based art and the power of songwriting saved my life. After what it did for me, I knew it could help other veterans as well.”
Today, CreatiVets has afforded countless veterans across the country the opportunity to heal. The organization hosts the Combat Veteran Songwriting program in Nashville and Introduction to Art for Combat Veterans programs in Chicago and Richmond. At the end of their program, veterans are given the opportunity to showcase their work in a gallery. CreatiVets songwriters even have the opportunity to distribute their compositions on Spotify!
Ultimately, CreatiVets initiatives focus on giving veterans the opportunity to tell their stories through art. By doing so, they’re given the opportunity to recover from traumatic experiences, promote self-healing, and combat the mental effects of war.
“I strongly believe every veteran should tell their story for the benefit of themselves and their loved ones,” a veteran participant said. “It wasn’t until after I began to tell my story [through art] that I felt a sense of relief from some of the grief I held inside.”
To learn more about CreatiVets, visit creativets.org.