Rochester Navy vet uses painting to help mental health

Rochester Navy vet uses painting to help mental health

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — “Trust the process” is Nyeshia Bradford’s new motivation.

“I do a lot of things to stay grounded and balanced,” Bradford said.

Painting is one of her favorite activities.


what you need to know

  • Last year’s National Veterans Suicide Prevention Report showed the suicide rate among female veterans jumped more than 24 percent last year, compared with 6.3 percent among male veterans.
  • Nyeshia Bradford served in the Navy from 1992 to 1996
  • She was left with a laundry list of traumas, so she sought help from a Veterans Outreach Center
  • VOC is opening a peer support drop-in center to provide veterans with additional mental health resources, seven days a week, extended hours
  • Bradford loves painting to help her cope

“This is going to be a beach scene. This is what the sky is like now,” she showed.

Bradford served in the Navy from 1992 to 1996. From sexual trauma to domestic abuse to post-traumatic stress disorder, Bradford turned to alcohol to cope.

“It’s like pouring gasoline on a fire and expecting it to go out, and for me, that doesn’t work,” she explains.

Nearly 30 years later, Bradford is still trying to recover from the situation. She is pleased to say that with support from the Rochester Veterans Outreach Center, she has been sober for four years. She said asking for help wasn’t the easiest decision for her.

“This was my first step. So, I was having a hard time. I said, ‘I don’t want to go,’ but my friends said, ‘But they’ll help you.’ ” I said, “I don’t care, I don’t, I don’t know those people. “Just come and you’ll get everything you need,” Bradford explained.

She was glad she did.

“I didn’t imagine myself being where I am now. I don’t know if I’m going to be okay, I just don’t want to be one of those people making excuses,” she said.

Feeling comfortable starting a conversation can be the hardest part of the recovery process. Last year’s National Veterans Suicide Prevention Report said the suicide rate among female veterans jumped more than 24 percent last year, compared with 6.3 percent among male veterans. This prompted VOC to find new ways to help. The organization recently broke ground on a new peer support drop-in center that will provide additional mental health resources with extended hours, seven days a week.

“This facility is more than just a physical structure, it embodies our commitment to the well-being of the men and women who serve our country,” explained Laura Hertz, executive director of the Veterans Outreach Center. “In establishing the center, we recognized an urgent need to expand this space beyond normal hours and workdays. Unfortunately, because mental health issues, loneliness and suicidal thoughts can be very serious, our veterans deserve A refuge where they can find refuge when they need it most.”

That’s good news for veterans like Bradford.

“I think it will be able to provide support, camaraderie and basic knowledge to other veterans. I hope it will bring us all together,” she said.

Her journey at VOC began eight years ago, where she developed a passion for painting. So where better to enjoy the new service than where her first paintings are still preserved?

“I painted this eight years ago when I started out there,” Bradford said while showing off one of her tree paintings. “I love trees, you know, they have stories to tell.”

Likewise, so do its artists.

“Come on, don’t be afraid. Join the community,” Bradford said. “To join the community, no matter what anyone tells you, trust the process and show up. Come on down and join us. There is room for everyone.”

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