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Helping Veterans Heal Mental Illness through Photography
New Film “Visions of Warriors” Follows The Veteran Photo Recovery Project, an Alternative Therapy Program at Veterans Affairs Menlo Park
LOS ANGELES, November 11, 2017—The Veteran Photo Recovery Project (VPRP), an innovative art therapy program at the Veterans Affairs Menlo Park, utilizes photography to help veterans suffering from moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and other mental illnesses by giving them a visual language and the tools to express themselves, an important step towards healing.
The project is documented in “Visions of Warriors,” a powerful new film released today from Los Angeles filmmaker Ming Lai. Ming spent three years following the efforts of Susan Quaglietti, an experienced nurse practitioner who founded the program, and documents her work with veterans including Mark Pinto, a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot during the Gulf War who became a Buddhist priest and then an artist.
“In 2018, the U.S. will be looking at the 17th year of war in Afghanistan with no end in sight,” said Lai. “The untold cost is the many veterans who return home suffering from mental illness, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), military sexual trauma (MST), and moral injury.”
During the Vietnam War, at least 18.7% of veterans developed PTSD (Dohrenwend et al., 2006). And during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, data suggests that 36.9% of veterans were diagnosed with a mental illness—21.8% with PTSD and 17.4% with depression (Seal et al., 2009). Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day.
Approximately one-half of the veterans who receive traditional evidence-based therapy still experience symptoms of mental illness. As result, many alternative therapies are being explored, including art therapy.
“Using art such as photography is visually based and it can assist with expressing suppressed feelings associated with problems such as PTSD and MST,” said Quaglietti. “This type of therapeutic intervention can be highly beneficial for some veterans and some even believe that participating in this process may have saved their life.”
The VPRP supplements traditional therapy, helping veterans learn how to relax their body, focus their mind, be in the moment, appreciate beauty, capture their subject, and affirm life, using this process to express their feelings, tell their stories, and assist their recovery.
The film will be released on Veterans Day, and will be available through Amazon Video Direct, Apple iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo on Demand, and online at www.visionsofwarriors.com/store. The film received a generous grant from the Stanford Medicine & the Muse Program, premiered at the prestigious Vail Film Festival, and was selected for an Honorable Mention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2017 Voice Awards. To watch the trailer and learn more about Visions of Warriors including screenings in Palo Alto and other locations, please visit www.visionsofwarriors.com.
About Humanist Films
Humanist Films, LLC is a film and photography production company, based in Los Angeles. Founded by filmmaker and photographer Ming Lai, Humanist Films is less of a traditional production company than an innovative think tank, gathering the brightest minds to research, plan, create, and change. Our interdisciplinary work ranges from narrative and documentary films to commercials and corporate videos to fine art and documentary photography projects. The name of our company honors legendary director, Akira Kurosawa, who was praised for his humanist compassion and inspired us to become filmmakers. www.humanistfilms.com
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Dohrenwend, B. P., Turner, J. B., Turse, N. A., Adams, B. G., Koenen, K. C., & Marshall, R. (2006). The psychological risks of Vietnam for US veterans: a revisit with new data and methods. Science, 313(5789), 979-982. doi: 10.1126/science.1128944
Seal, K. H., Thomas, J., Gima, K. S., Bertenthal, D., Maguen, S., & Marmar, C. R. (2009). Trends and risk factors for mental health diagnoses among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans using Department of Veterans Affairs Health Care. American Journal of Public Health. 99(9), 1651-1658. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.150284
Toomey, R., Kang, H. K., Karlinsky, J., Baker, D. G., Vasterling, J. J., Alpern, R., ... & Eisen, S. A. (2007). Mental health of US Gulf War veterans 10 years after the war. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 190(5), 385-393. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.105.019539