Now, a community-based group is reaching out to vets to help them cope with the nightmare, through art therapy.
"I don't like being around a lot of people, especially strangers, and strange places," says Christopher McNulty, a retired U.S. Army soldier. McNulty served 21 years in the Army, with time in the Gulf War, and Iraq. He never knew he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder until after his retirement.
"In the military, we always had this thing that, it's a weakness if you go to the sick call or the doctor," McNulty says. "Especially if you're going to go to the head shrinks. Then you're really messed up.
Now the Return and Recovery program for military veterans is helping soldiers share their traumatic experiences of war.
"In war, there's no time to grieve, no time for ceremony," says George Kamps, a clinical social worker. "There's no funeral time, or very brief, so all that emotional processing that we go through when we lose someone close to us today, that all got kind of stacked up inside, and it's like unfinished emotional business."
Through all mediums of art, mental health professionals, artists, and mentor vets are helping these soldiers share very difficult memories.
"It's better, more descriptive, more telling to use color, shape, pictures, imagery," says Tim Mayer, of Artists for the Humanities.
Feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness that are sometimes too difficult to put into words, are now expressed in visual storytelling.
McNulty says he thought the therapy was a waste of time, but that it's helped him a lot.
"People helping people really helps to heal the heart, and also to help the mind get past, with the help of others, some struggles that are just too heavy to do alone," says Kamps.
The Return and Recovery program for military vets meets the third Tuesday of every month in De Pere.
If you know of a vet who suffers from PTSD, or other mental health conditions, and might benefit from this program, please click here for more information.
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