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Originally published on https://mariahinternship2017.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/va-fall-fest/
The Fall Fest celebration at the VA was a huge success! We enjoyed painting pumpkins, playing giant Jenga, and creating music. The Fall Fest was a celebration of the group at the VA for all their enthusiasm, creativity, and heart they have put into making this such a wonderful Painted Brain group.
We started off the event by painting pumpkins. This was a really fun way to incorporate a medium that is not used weekly and which the group expressed interest in painting. Each persons’ pumpkin turned out very different, and were very stunning! Some people created the classic pumpkin, others drew inspiration from 20th-century artists like Picasso, cat motifs, and others drew on pop culture favorites in Harry Potter. The pumpkins turned out gorgeous, so go to the new community center to see them displayed in our front window!
Playing giant Jenga was great fun and exciting! The giant Jenga version added an element of a greater challenge, due to the heavier pieces requiring more strategic maneuvering. This was an exciting way to seeing how everyone’s strategy and method to approaching the challenges of the game was different. Some people choose more difficult pieces to remove in an effort to make the tower more precarious for others. While others choose to find the pieces that were the easiest to remove.
We enjoyed pizza, juice, and snacks. It was enjoyable to share a meal with the group that we had been working with for a few weeks. Sharing a meal with others is a really important way to build community and foster stronger longer lasting relationships. This can be a key step to help veterans to reintegrate into civilian life.
This was followed by the Jam session, which is an enjoyable portion of the group for me every week because I like listening to the new music and sounds the fellow group members have been working on during the week. It is wonderful to hear the unique musical compilations people have been working on during the week.
(Our newest member Dog!)
As a group we have been facing the barriers of trying to get the veteran community who live within the building, where we host the group, to be interested in joining. We have found that individuals are interested in the tangible things, such as food, but less so in sharing their experiences and fostering new relationships. This got me thinking about the veteran community in general and what some of the typical behaviors that are exhibited by this population.
Many veterans have a hard time returning to civilian life because of the radical changes that occur. Examples include adjusting to competitive job environments verse military teamwork model, relating to people, creating new communities, and more (Mental Health VA, Readjustment). Painted Brains Jam sessions are working to combat the barriers to social and community engagement through art and music.
Through attending this group I have begun to ponder the implications of the regimented military set up and the impacts of support post-discharge. How does being part of a highly structured and regimented system lead to possible challenges upon discharge? Should we consider changes to this type of military set-up? The implications to one’s mental health because of engagement in warfare can be a challenging topic to discuss. I also have been considering the military supports, should they be set-up differently to provide better supports to veterans? I plan to discuss this topic with veterans at the next group to get their thoughts and opinions on veteran supports provided by the military.
By Mariah Morris is an Occupational Therapy Intern at the University of Southern California