Riverwoods program helps veterans heal through nature photography

RIVERWOODS, Ill. (WLS) -- A unique program in the northern suburbs is helping veterans through the healing powers of photography and the great outdoors.

Glenda Battle served our country for 16 years in the U.S Navy. She now suffers from Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"With PTSD it can involve chronic pain, depression, anxiety and stress, so sometimes it's just knowing what's called triggers," Battle said. "Know what they are and identifying what they are and using coping skills to minimize those symptoms."

One of Battle's triggers is watching negative news stories and being in large public spaces. She hasn't watched TV since Monday.

Programs like At Ease, which is offered at the Brushwood Center In Riverwoods, help veterans like Battle get mental illness treatment by connecting with nature.

"In Illinois, about 20 veterans a day commit suicide, so programs like these provide community support to military veterans are really crucial," said Catherine Game, the executive director of the Brushwood Center.

Game clarified that the statistic about how many veterans die by suicide each day is for the entire U.S., including Illinois.

Stopping to smell the roses -- or in the case of this program, photograph them -- has helped immensely with Battle's depression and anxiety.

"Nature has natural healing powers anyway, so it allows me to take in the beauty that's around me," she said.

Through the At Ease program at the Brushwood center, collaborates with the captain James. A. Lovell Federal health care Center to provide three hour work-shops for veterans to learn the basics of photography.

The program builds on research showing that exposure to nature improves mental health, self-esteem and other obstacles veterans face during their transition to civilian life.

"What it really means is two to three hours out of the house and sunshine," said Robert Hanson, a Vietnam veteran.
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