Bay Pines veterans use art therapy to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder

Healthy competition is always fun, but an art exhibit at Bay Pines VA Hospital is not about blue ribbons. It's about mental health.

“I write poetry to deal with my post-traumatic stress syndrome,” said Beverly Smith-Tillery, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She worked in an operating room and struggles with processing all of the soldiers she could not save during the wars. 

“Part of the depression and guilt lingers in my mind,” Smith-Tillery explained. 

Smith-Tillery, and this community of veterans, use different forms of art as therapy and their work was recently on display.

On Thursday, an exhibit at the hospital showcased music, paintings, sculptures and poetry created by the veterans.

Smith-Tillery said poetry really helped her cope. “It helps me put to rest some of the memories I have from the war,” she explained. She added that writing about the operating room puts her in a place where emotions can be controlled. 

Bay Pines music therapist Erin Todd put the exhibit together. 

“It is easily the favorite part of my job,” Todd said. “It’s so powerful to see people out of their shells.”

Smith-Tillery said this form of art therapy is life-changing and plans on publishing her work to raise money for veteran's charities. 

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, 11-20% of military veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.