PTSD: Help for Veterans and Trauma Victims Through Photography

Some of these fine young men and women, who volunteered to serve their country, won’t come back the same.

Many will come back fighting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. In fact the numbers affected are staggering.

Currently, (July 2013) more than 850,000 veterans are in a wait state without benefits while the Department of Veterans Affairs decides whether their PTSD disability claims are valid.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many never seek treatment for their condition or even know they have it.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 7.7 million American adults age 18 and older, or about 3.5 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

That means there are an awful lot of people out there who need help, but:

  • Don’t know it
  • Don’t know where to turn for help
  • Are too embarrassed to seek out help
  • Have sought help, but not found the treatments effective
  • Would prefer to help themselves, but don’t know how

For those who aren’t familiar with PTSD, here is an excerpt from a free publication put out by The New York State Office of Mental Health, courtesy of  the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder:

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
PTSD is a real illness. People may get PTSD after living through a disturbing or frightening experience. It can be treated with medicine and therapy.
You can get PTSD after you have been:

  • Raped or sexually abused
  • A victim of emotional or physical abuse by someone in your family
  • A victim of a violent crime
  • In an airplane or car crash
  • In a hurricane, tornado, or fire
  • In a war
  • In an event where you thought you might be killed, or
  • After you have seen any of these events

If you have PTSD, you often have nightmares or scary thoughts about the experience you went through.You try to stay away from anything that reminds you of your experience.

You may feel angry and unable to trust or care about other people.You may always be on the lookout for danger.You can feel very upset when something happens suddenly or without warning. (end of NYS excerpt)

The more I read about PTSD,  it’s symptoms and treatments, and the confusion and mystery over what really helps, the more I am reminded of a study by psychologist and university professor, Dr. Charles A. Rapp.

It was described in his famous book, “The Strengths Model”.  In the section titled, “Talents and Skills” Dr. Rapp told of a man, long hospitalized  with mental and physical abnormalities (pg.95). He descibed how when this man was directed to pursue his passion for photography (even though his photos never sold anywhere) he was released within 2 months from the hospital with a clean bill of health. Even more compelling was the fact that this previously troubled man never again returned to the hospital until his death from pneumonia 20 years later..

Merely pursuing a hobby that interested him, photography in particular, was enough to set this man on a course to a long and healthy life.

Photography helped this man beat both his mental and physical challenges.

This sounds exactly like what our affected veterans and other trauma victims need.

But currently, there is no formal course or structure for making photography available as therapy to those troubled by physical or mental challenges. But there should be. And that’s the focus of my website and this article.

Anyone interested in photography can tell you that there is a calming effect of searching for and always finding the beauty in this world. Any photographer will tell you of the zen-like focus of attention one comes to when consumed with creating an image. You block out all others problems and concerns in your life, you cannot consciously hear the sounds around you, you cannot see distractions beyond the viewfinder. You are consumed by the scene you hope to capture to the exclusion of all else.

As an aside, hundreds of studies can be found that document a viewers therapeutic reaction to pictures (paintings and photographs).

It is widely accepted in psychological circles that colors can effect the mood of the people who view them. Blue is often described as a calming color while red is said to excite. Yellow is cheerful and black depressing.

A persons mood can also be effected by the subject portrayed in the scene. Certain landscape scenes have a calming effect while certain city-scapes tend to increase tension.

It is well documented that viewing finished photos is therapeutic.

What surprised me however, was how little documentation (almost none beyond the case studies and surveys documented on my website and in my book) could be found that gave evidence of the therapeutic effects of TAKING photographs.

Marcia would disagree. Carolyn would disagree. Ken would disagree. They shared their stories of how photography helped them conquer some pretty nasty demons in my book. The hundred or so survey letters I’ve received stating the positive effects of photography would disagree.

I am really surprised not to find more accounts online which tell of the wonderful effects of photography on the human mind and body. I would like to change that. But I need your help.

In order to build a database of compelling information and spread the word on the physical and mental health benefits of photography, won’t you please share any relevant stories of benefits you have received (no matter how big or small) through your involvement in photography in the comments below?

That would be a big help.

Also, as photographers we all love to snap up the latest and greatest new gadgets that promise to take our photos to a whole new level. We spend hundreds, thousands of dollars even on new lenses, lights, tripods and gizmos for just a chance to capture that next awe inspiring, once in a lifetime photo. Won’t you please consider donating just a tiny fraction of that below to help me reach out to the deserving men and women who haven’t yet learned of the benefits photography can bring?

With the help of your generous donations I would like to:

  • Distribute free copies of my book, “Photo Fitness Phenomenon”
  • Initiate photography classes specifically designed to help those with PTSD
  • Collaborate with treatment centers and therapists to offer a “Photo-Therapy” alternative
  • Seek donations of cameras and gear from manufacturers and local retail shops
  • Give informational seminars to local veteran’s groups explaining the benefits
  • Prepare research grant applications for major funding and support
  • Continue hosting this website and raising awareness to help more victims

Any help you can give, to help our troubled veterans see a better world after looking at some of the worst horrors created by man, to help them see the beautiful world that we as photographers see,  will be greatly appreciated and put to good use.

We can all help those who volunteered to serve and protect our freedom, and were harmed in this pursuit. And we should. Share your story. Donate. Tell a vet about this website. It’s the least you can do to help. And might just be the best.

You can make your donation, securely, in any amount, using any card through the PayPal button just below:


My sincere thanks go out to all the photographers, and caring Americans just like you, who shared just a little of their bounty so that these brave men and women who’ve sacrificed so much, and seen such horrors, can begin to see a better world today through photography. Thank you for your support.

Bob Schwarztrauber

Divorced? Click for New Mate

One of the more surprising results, in my health survey of amateur photographers, was that people were finding new relationships through their involvement in photography.

That was not one of the specific questions in the survey, but rather was found in comments that were written in when folks were asked to put in their own words how photography had improved their life.

When asked to write in what benefits they got from photography, among other things they wrote:

  • Meet new people
  • Feel more connected to the community
  • Gets me out of the house
  • Don’t feel so isolated, lonely

Those were benefits I had not even considered including in the survey before all the results came back.

But when you think about it, a great deal of our physical health is tied to our emotions. How we “feel” inside is often reflected in our health and in our energy. When we are depressed and lonely, we often don’t feel like doing anything.

To see that photography could help people improve their social lives was a nice surprise. Come to think of it, although I never thought of it as a health benefit, I have met all kinds of wonderful people through my photography too.

One way to get started would be to look at Meetup groups in your area. offers many local community groups who get together centered around a theme. There are writing groups, and sports groups, a host of other groups on every topic imaginable, and there are photography groups.

In my area, the photography groups (there are actually 10 different photography groups in my area) chose some part of town, maybe a historic area, or church, or river walk, or scenic attraction and they all meet up to take pictures for an hour or two and then meet at some restaurant to sit and discuss the outing and share photos.

It’s great way to casually meet new people, without commitment or expectation,  who share a similar interest. It’s a great way for singles to get out, have some fun and social interaction in a safe way.

Photography classes are also a great way to meet new people. It’s easy to suggest meeting up somewhere for a photo walk. Or often times, the instructor will schedule fun outings that give you an easy, informal chance to talk and interact with someone new.

Once I saw the survey results and thought about it, it really made sense. Photography is a great way to meet new people and have something fun to do. There is no end to the adventures you can share and places you could go.

I’ve also noticed, that traveling alone is so much more fun when you bring your camera along. Suddenly, you’re not some lonely traveler wandering around a strange town, but you’re a photographer on a mission to capture great things! You’re on the hunt for cool new photos to share. You’re on safari!

A simple change of thought can do wonders for how you feel.

Not content to just accept the survey results and my own personal experience, I decided to interview a professional psychologist and family therapist who specializes in divorce to get her take on all this.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Lisa Rene Reynolds by clicking here.



Low Stress Senior Workout

Getting older doesn’t have to mean slowing down.

The stereotypical old man or woman sitting in a rocker waiting to die is dead. Thanks to greater knowledge of how our bodies work, modern medicine, and treatments, we can remain active well into our “Golden Years”.

But we can’t do it like we’re 20!

A senior fitness routine must take into account several factors:

  • It should be easy on our joints
  • It should be good for our cardiovascular system
  • It should be something we can do every day
  • It should definitely strengthen our legs and torso
  • It should not leave us sore or ache
  • It should be exciting to increase our dopamine levels ( a natural pain reliever)
  • If possible, we’d rather not sweat

Luckily, there is an activity that provides all these benefits and more – Photography.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

Let’s back up a minute. I took two steps there instead of one.

Walking is the primary activity that covers all of the points listed above. In fact, doctors worldwide recommend walking as one of THE most beneficial exercises. Everyone says we should do more of it.

The problem is, it can get boring to just go out, day after day, and walk.

Let’s face it, we live in a high stimulus world right now. We are a nation of multi-taskers. We need more than just a walk, alone with our thoughts, to keep us motivated to continue.

That’s where photography comes in.

When you bring your camera along, suddenly your boring walk becomes an exciting safari. You’re on the hunt for a great scene to capture…with your camera.

Suddenly, your mind is not thinking of your walk as exercise, but as an exciting adventure. You never know what you’ll see today. What cool photos you’ll take to share with your friends or family.

As simple as it may seem, changing your focus from exercise to adventure can make all the difference between staying healthy or slipping into a sedentary lifestyle that will cripple your health and hasten your demise.

Consider bringing your camera along on your next walk. Look for interesting things to photograph. With the new digital cameras, the satisfaction is immediate. Not only will you go home feeling better because you took a walk, but you’ll have cool photos to share as well. Two for one…what a great deal!

For best results, consider taking a photography class. You’ll learn all sorts of new techniques that will improve your photo taking AND increase your interest. One of the great truths, when we get good at something, we like to do it more!

Stay fit. Stay healthy.

Next time you head out for a walk, leave your dog at home and bring your camera instead. Or bring them both for twice the fun

To learn more about the 24 surprising health benefits not normally associated with photography, pick up a copy of my new audio CD, “Your F-Stop Guide to Fitness”. You’ll listen in as I share 45 minutes of true-life stories, tips and tricks, including the 24 health benefits photography can provide. It’s the perfect senior fitness guide.

Click on the photo below for details…

Senior Fitness



Photography Next Fitness Craze

Will digital photography become the next fitness craze?

The signpost are all there.

  • A huge wave of aging baby boomers
  • A powerful desire to stay healthy and active
  • A need for a low-stress, heart healthy program
  • The need for something easy on the joints
  • The need for an all-season program
  • Something that does not require a membership fee
  • Ideally, it must allow for social contact but not require it
  • A desire for immediate gratification must be met
  • Affordable, easy-to-use technology

While many consider photography and art or hobby, new research has shown that it can be used as an effective therapeutic tool to ward of the effects of old age. It has also been shown to help those who are depressed, over-weight, in chronic pain and more.

A powerful combination of simple technologies has combined to offer all sorts of relief to a wide array of physical and mental health problems.

I call these technologies “The Healthy Photographer’s Trilogy”. The “trilogy” is evolved from a combination of digital cameras, digital photo editing, and the internet. Each  element provides a vital component that creates a synergy for improving overall health when combined.

The camera adds a powerful physical fitness component that gets you moving, adds energy, and strengthens muscle and bone.

Digital photo editing is essential for mental health and maintaining sharp and motivated brain activity.

The internet adds a vital social component that keeps you on track to your goals, offers an educational resource, and encourages the commitment that helps you succeed.

Best of all, each component of the trilogy in and of itself is fun!

When done properly, digital photography offers a host of fitness opportunities that were never possible before. Young and old can get surprising health benefits no matter what kind of camera they use and regardless of their skill level.

In my new book, “Photo Fitness Phenomenon” I go into great detail and offer a simple program that anyone can follow to claim all the benefits of a photo-fitness program.

A proper photo-fitness program fulfills all the needs of the aging baby-boomer crowd. I should know,  I am one.

In fact, your digital camera might just be the best, hand-held, portable fitness machine ever invented. And you thought it was just for taking pictures!

Take the Photographer’s Health Test now to see if your digital photo taking is helping or hurting your health now.

Robert Schwarztrauber

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