Sometimes small gestures can make big impacts. That's just what Maine's State and Local Government Committee had in mind on Wednesday when they unanimously supported a bill that would, from now on, establish Nov. 1 as Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day.
According to the Maine Sun Journal, the legislative committee was totally united on the bill, which moved from a public hearing to a work session vote in less than a half hour. If it is approved by the full Legislature, Maine will become the first state to officially designate a day to recognizing and supporting veteran artists.
Rep. Bob Duchesne, who sponsored the bill, didn't have to work hard to convince his fellow lawmakers that many times veterans find exploring different art forms therapeutic, making the transition into their life after service just a little bit easier. Duchesne pointed to the high suicide rate among returning veterans as evidence that something had to be done immediately.
"Bubbling under the surface is a whole range of psychological and social challenges that await our returning veterans," Duchesne told his colleagues, according to the Sun Journal. "As a nation, we've been rather slow to recognize how difficult reintegration is after the tremendous highs and lows of service and the regimentation of deployment and all that goes with it. Life back home is a whole lot different."
Rather than fall back on pills and counseling as an end-all, be-all treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, Maine legislators would give their veterans opportunities through writing, painting, sculpture or some other medium to find relief.
Ars Bellum Foundation, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, in conjunction with the Adler Graduate School in Richfield, have taken a similar approach, according to the Star Tribune. They have created a clinical art therapy program for Minnesota veterans that is based closely on the one seeing so much success at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
"It's a nonthreatening environment where you can put your hands on it; where you don't have to find a word to express a feeling or emotion," said Matthew Vater, a colonel in the National Guard and Ars Bellum – meaning "arts of war" – Board Member. "It helps to reach a part that might not have been reached traditionally."