This week I am talking with Richard Casper of CreatiVets in Nashville, TN. Richard is a military veteran that suffered a brain injury in the war and has since found healing through music. He co-founded the non-profit CreatiVets to help other veterans write songs with hit songwriters that help them communicate their thoughts and feelings to start the healing process. Richard also co-founded the songwriting app We Should Write Sometime that allows writers from all over to connect with other songwriters. We are discussing learning to write music to cope with trauma, starting multiple music related companies, changing the way music is accessible and how your anxieties and depression have to be outweighed by your excitement when writing.
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In this episode we discuss:
*Being in the military and guarding the President.
*Losing friends in combat and suffering a brain injury.
*Taking art and creative writing in college to help with the brain injury.
*Learning to write music to cope.
*Connecting with Nashville writers at a songwriter’s round in Chicago.
*Meeting and writing with songwriter Mark Irwin and how that began the healing process.
*Bringing vets to Nashville to write with pro writers who can help them communicate their thoughts and feelings to help the start healing.
*Bring in people around you to be successful.
*Starting the non-profit CreatiVets.
*CreatiVets helps wounded veterans heal through arts and music.
*The importance of networking with people in the industry.
*Creating a partnership with Big Machine Records to release music.
*Starting We Should Write Sometime app.
*Changing the way music is accessible.
*We Should Write Your Song – custom songs for people.
*How writers can write for We Should Write Sometime or We Should Write Your Song.
*CreatiVets’ goal is trying to end veteran suicide.
*Your anxieties and depression have to be outweighed by your excitement.
*You need to be in a music town to do this professionally.
*Have one person who will champion you.
RICHARD CASPER | Co-Founder & Executive Director
Richard co-founded CreatiVets and currently serves as the CreatiVets organization’s executive director. Richard served four years as an infantryman in the United States Marine Corps, with a combat deployment in Fallujah, Iraq. During his deployment, he was hit by four IEDs in just four short months, causing him to suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Upon returning home, Richard found it hard to adjust and suffered from PTS until he discovered the healing power of music and art. After experiencing firsthand the impact music and art had on his own recovery, Richard co-founded CreatiVets to help other veterans who are suffering.
CreatiVets’ goal is to offer opportunities for relief and healing for the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country. Our purpose is to use various forms of art, including songwriting, visual arts, music, and creative writing, to help disabled veterans cope with service-related trauma (i.e., post-traumatic stress, or PTS) by fostering self-expression in a way that allows them to transform their stories of trauma and struggle into an art form that can inspire and motivate continued healing. Through compassion, we are helping veterans live again.
Veterans suffering from PTS re-experience traumatic events years and even decades later, reliving the helplessness, fear, and horror associated with their traumatic event. Such strong, negative reactions often lead to anxiety, sadness, anger, depression, guilt, shame, irritability, behavior changes, and thoughts of suicide. These feelings can cause the individual to avoid environments that trigger reminders of the trauma, resulting in isolation and withdrawal from society and often leading to marital problems, difficulty in parenting, job instability, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, and even suicide.
CreatiVets has served veterans from 49 states!
According to the Department of Defense, one in five veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTS – over 300,000 veterans by the end of 2012. The social and economic costs of PTS are immense, and a study posted by the Military Times in 2015 found that the veteran suicide rate in the United States is 20 suicides per day and 14 of those don’t seek help from the VA. Veterans now account for 20% of suicides in the United States.
Creative art forms like those offered by the CreatiVets’ programs have shown tremendous effectiveness in reducing PTS symptoms, reducing the severity of depression that often accompanies PTS, and improving the quality of life for veterans and their family members. Over the last two decades, researchers and clinicians have found the relief and healing provided by expressive writing, music and art is possible because these forms of expression do not necessitate exposure to the facts of the trauma, and also allow the individual to avoid the stigma of receiving mental health treatment.
In modeling the CreatiVets programming, we have structured our sessions in a way that allows the participating veterans to express their thoughts and feelings without having to verbalize or directly confront the trauma. Our artistic outlets focus on creating an environment in which the veteran feels safe, providing an expressive medium that does not threaten that feeling of safety and helping veterans live again in turn.