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Veteran organization using improv to help members express trauma

Posted at 1:12 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 14:12:52-04

BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — Texas Veterans are facing a hard time during the pandemic.

The VA says vets are twice as likely to die by suicide than civilians.

But a national non-profit is looking to save lives and help our service members through these hard times.

As a military spouse who also grew up in a military family, Grace Belizario knows firsthand how beneficial a program like Armed Services Arts Partnership, or ASAP, can be.

"I went to a class like this where I didn't have any background and I found that this was a really, great outlet for me to kind of get rid of my serious side and really dive into something fun," Grace Belizario, program manager, ASAP said.

ASAP uses the arts to help members of the military community cope with trauma.

And programs like this potentially save lives. In 2018, 511 texas vets died by suicide, according to the VA.

Executive Director Brian Jenkins says the partnership heals through laughter.

"The laughter and the humor that we are cultivating in our class environment are what's resulting in our veterans experiencing improved resilience, sense of purpose, self-esteem, confidence and overall sense of belonging, improving their well-being," Jenkins said.

ASAP offers a six-week class where people use activities like comedy and improv to let loose.

"What we try to cultivate at ASAP, an environment where people can fully be themselves," Belizario said.

While also helping participants let work through their trauma in a safe place.

"We give feedback in a way that is honoring and restorative," Belizario said.

Classes are kept in a small intimate setting, with two instructors and no more than 12 people to a class.

"What that creates is an environment where you know that you're going to be supported by the people around you," Jenkins said.

Due to the pandemic, all classes in the Lone Star State are being held virtually.