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Milwaukee VA Discusses ways to Prevent Veterans Committing Suicide

A government study reports 20 vets on average commit suicide each day.

Counselors at the Milwaukee VA said this does not have to happen.

They said there are ways like therapy and art to help veterans adjust to life after war.

CBS 58 caught up with one vet who works as a custodian at the VA.

He said drawing helped him push through PTSD and stopped him from ending his life.

"I needed a way to keep it all together. Try to find a balance in my life because for a long time I had PTSD and didn't even realize that I had it. And I was in a lot of pain about a lot of things,” said Willie Wilson.

"Being able to express your feelings and emotions, your turmoils, is so key in having healthy mental health,” said Karen Gage, Worgull/suicide prevention coordinator, Milwaukee VA.

"There's a lot of pain in these pictures," Willie said breaking down as he was surrounded by his artwork. The wounds of service will always be with him but the paintbrush has helped wash some of those tears away.

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

His vast library of work is a testament to the progress he's made.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime to be sitting here on this floor among my work and say what it means to save somebody else. Somebody may see this and it may trigger something in them to say  I don't want to give up. I don't want to commit suicide. I don't want to lose my life."

He learned by watching and then his need to find a way to express his feelings made the painting come naturally. It has served as a reminder that life can be beautiful.

"I know through art, it's so therapeutic, that once you get into it, you really can find a way to save yourself."

Willie hopes to raise money to run his own art therapy program one day.

He is still called to serve.
 

If you or someone you know is battling PTSD or is considering suicide contact the Milwaukee VA.

http://www.Milwaukee.va.gov/

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