In the past sixteen years more nearly 350,000 service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries and anywhere from 11- 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from depression and/or PTSD. These numbers are both staggering and heartbreaking. Treatment is often a lifelong process. One emerging method to help returning service members cope and overcome the challenges presented when returning home with these injuries is art therapy.
Nebraska Arts for Vets
Set to begin its art classes in September 2016, Nebraska Arts for Vets seeks to provide a creative outlet for veterans suffering from PTSD, mental issues, and other combat related issues. As a wife and mother of combat war veterans, founder Cara Loken has seen the effects that war on a return to civilian life first hand. “My husband is still in the Air National Guard. My son, an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division was honorably discharged two years ago, but still suffers from PTSD. I started this organization because I wanted to give veterans and service members a way to focus their minds on something else besides the side effects left from war.”
This same sentiment is seen in the organization’s mission to help veterans find creative outlets and allow them to use their creativity and imagination to tell their stories. “Art therapy is considered by many as a mind-body connection that can influence physiological and psychological symptoms,” says Loken. Programs like Loken’s are being used at major rehab facilities across the country.
Classes of All Kinds
Veterans taking classes with Nebraska Arts for Vets will have their choice of various art forms including crafting, painting, drawing, and woodworking. There are even plans to add some blacksmithing classes in the near future. Classes are free to veterans and military service members and the organization plans to host two annual art shows to allow veterans to display and sell their artwork. The first art show is scheduled for December 2016.
Support the Arts
Like most art programs, Nebraska Arts for Vets is feeling the pinch when it comes to funding. “Besides just getting the word out to our local veteran community, the hardest thing about getting our program started is finding places we can hold our classes while still keeping participation free of charge.” Currently, classes are schedule to begin at the VFW Post 9875 in Waverly, NE.
Interested volunteers and donors are asked to contact the organization directly and help spread the word to the local military communities. More information about Nebraska Art for Vets can be found on the organization’s website and on Facebook. They can also be contacted by phone (402) 613-2817 or by email.