When service members leave the military, they often bear internal scars. Although those injuries can reverberate through every aspect of a person’s life, they can’t be seen.
Art therapy is used to make these inner struggles tangible and help heal those wounds. “Battle Signs: Using Art Therapy to Process TBI and PTS Injuries and Trauma,” a free exhibition at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, provides a glimpse into that creative process.
The exhibition showcases artwork produced by veterans in the Intrepid Spirit program at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. At Intrepid Spirit centers, veterans receive care for traumatic brain injuries, PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder and psychological conditions.
Works produced as part of art therapy aren’t made to be exhibited; they’re a chance to process private struggles. But through September, some service members’ therapy art is on display.
The artwork — which includes abstract paintings, photos, multimedia pieces and decorated masks — brings veterans’ confrontations with mortality, physical and mental suffering, and trauma into focus. The pieces are categorized under three themes: patriotism, pain and identity.
These struggles are common among service members. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 10 to 18 percent of troops return from war zones with PTSD, and according to the Department of Defense, more than 361,000 service members have been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.
The public can meet the artists and hear about how art therapy helps at an open house Aug. 27 at 2:30 p.m. More information is available at facebook.com/events/485931408412955.