Discovering Art and Healing at VA

Discovering Art and Healing at VA


JONES: I was a combat medic in
the Army. And even though I was a “health care provider” in the
military, the last person I wanted to take care of was
myself.I always felt a certain way after putting an injured
soldier on a Black Hawk and never understood what I felt.
One day Rosemarie Rodgers gave me some clay and told me to do
something with it. And I came up with a sculpture and then she
asked me to write about it. Perched in an overwatch
position, flashing colors, flying debris, heightened senses
to what’s around.” [Gunshots] “The moment is heavy, my
breathing labored as I scan the limp body scattered on the
ground, a broken solider that has no concept of quit as his
eyes start to dim. My heart breaks, but my face
without emotion, as I count the missing limbs.” ♪ MUSIC ♪ GREENLEE: VA facilities are
going through a really wonderful transformation as they are
exploring how can they bring arts and wellness programs to
their facilities. JONES: The feedback I’ve gotten
on my art has been amazing. You know, my mom saw my art for
the first time, and a tear comes down her eye. And she’s just
like “I didn’t know you had this in you. Why have you been hiding
this for so long?” RODGERS: He never went to school
to study poetry, you know. This just emerged from him,
which is a great sign from an art therapy point of view
because he’s reflecting on what the six deployments meant
to him and his family. GREENLEE: It starts to transform
that experience into something that is creative, generative,
and forward-moving. WEBSTER: And that invites
different kinds of ways that we treat the patient which may not neccessarily have to be
pharmaceutical. RODGERS: Part of what I do in my
group is people work for a certain amount of time. And then
they come together. And they talk about their work. JONES: This painting here was
pretty huge for me because four of my friends committed
suicide. So it was a way of wondering what happens to them
afterwards. So this is like my own version
of “Stairway to Heaven.” ROLLINS: By expressing through
their arts, they allow people to see a different side of them and
see them in a totally different way. BUSH: This is wood burn. I
never did it before. It takes my mind off of the arguing and the
pain and the suffering. It takes away some of the flashbacks that
I have. HANNA: It creates even
endorphins that make people feel happier and more relaxed. BUSH: Every time when I work on
this project, it comforts me. It reminds me of who I am, the
person that I’ve become, and the changes that’s going on
now. GREENLEE: The arts bring us back
to who our most essential selves are. And from
that place, we can heal most profoundly. JONES: I used to think being
vulnerable was just a sign of being weak, you know? And it
takes courage to be vulnerable. The part of art therapy has been
monumental for my family, the growth and the healing. ROLLINS: Some of the outcomes
that we’re seeing are just wonderful. We’re seeing it help
with symptoms. We’re seing it help with reintegration into the
community. MOWATT: So I’ve been
deployed to Afghanistan, and I’ve been deployed to Iraq. And
on my first deployment, I had this three-quarter-length guitar
with me. And basically, that guitar got me through Iraq. ♪ MUSIC ♪ HANNA: We know that music has
the power through studies to really changed the mood of a
person. MOWATT: It’s like an unwritten
language. It connects people in different ways. It doesn’t
matter what gender, what ethnic background. Music just does
something to people that– I can’t even explain it myself. RODGERS: And I think that’s the
wonderful thing about art therapy is that it gives
people who don’t have the words and opportunity to express
themseleves, and for us, as a community of people, to look at
it and say, “Wow.” JONES: It just makes it so much
easier on a daily basis because of the fact that I know
I’m not in it alone. WEBSTER: We’re beginning to see
how our brain changes when we are involved in different kinds
of art-making. GREENLEE: They ask for pain
medication less. They ask for a nurse assitant less. They go
home sooner. And they have a lower case of recidivism. So
they get better faster, and they stay that way. JONES: And the beautiful thing
about art is that it makes you feel something before you’re
ready to feel it. RODGERS: So art therapy is very
unique in that it’s the Veteran’s artwork that drives
the treaments. HANNA: It allows the Veteran to
discover themselves the best way the can seek
healing. JONES: I’m actually starting to
realize that it’s important to take care of myself because if
I’m not happy, if I’m not healthy, I can’t do nothing for
anybody. WEBSTER: We’re very optimistic
that this work is going to have not only powerful implications
for our Veterans, but really for the whole entire health care
society. JONES: I am forever thankful to
Rosemarie Rodgers because I believe she saved my life. “A broken soldier that has no
concept of quit as his eyes start to dim. My heart breaks,
but my face is without emotion as I count the missing limbs.
What is the message? Someone tell me, what does it
mean? Coming home to my family, they noticed in my eyes, no
longer are they kind, wishing they were presented with a
folded flag and a check rather than what was left
behind. Thank you.” [APPLAUSE] ♪ MUSIC ♪

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