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Local Veterans Art Therapy Could Prove Critical in the Prevention of Veteran Suicide

The latest estimates are that 20 Veterans take their own lives each day.

Locally, we're getting a cleared picture of how to treat PTSD through the eyes of a vet turned artist.

"I had never drawn before. I didn't know anything about art," Veteran Willie Weaver-Bey tells CBS 58 News. "But I saw it was a way to get out of the way. I wanted to be out of the way. I didn't want to be part of the norm. I wanted my time to mean something for me."

Through color and paint, Willie has found a way to bridge the conversation about the ugly truth of PTSD.

It's been a hard road for him that included living out of a van and spending time behind bars.

The display of his work at Milwaukee's Zablocki V.A. Medical Center is a testament to the progress he's made and could literally be a life line for other veterans like him.

He learned by watching.

It was his need to express his feelings that created an atmosphere where the painting came naturally.

It was a way to remind himself that life can be beautiful.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime to sit here among my work," said Willie. "And say what it means to save somebody else. Somebody may see this and it may trigger something in them to say ya know what I don't want to give up. I don't want to commit suicide. I don't want to lose my life."

The Milwaukee V.A. is trying to get people to talk more about the stresses of service and seek out the programs that are available to veterans and their families.

They come in many forms, not just painting.

Several local veterans have received recognition through the Veterans Creative Arts Festival Competition which is held each year for the men and women who have served our country.

Willie hopes to raise money to open an art therapy clinic of his own one day.

He is still called to serve.

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