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Molding an outlook: Artist’s support for mental health

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- It is PTSD Awareness month, and one local veteran is creating a space for civilians and servicemen to share their mental struggles -- and improve mental health. Philip Romero owns P.J. Romero Ceramics in El Paso, and as a combat veteran he has a unique insight into the struggles of post-traumatic stress.

Now, he's being recognized for his efforts.

Romero's studio has been open for two years now, and in that time, Romero feels he's been able to set up his shop as a place for everyone to come and talk about what's going on in their heads. He feels everyone needs to speak about mental wellness -- and hear what we all have to say.

Romero was presented a certificate of appreciation from the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic of El Paso, for his commitment to supporting veterans in the community through his ceramics. The anniversary party was held yesterday at Craft Rhythm and Brews.

Romero works with Endeavors to put on a program for veterans at his ceramic's studio. He says he has always wanted to work with veterans.

He's a combat veteran of Iraq, and found his love of ceramics after his service. Romero feels working with clay is very primal -- and helped him work through his combat-related post-traumatic stress.

He believes that working with the earth helps with human mental health. Romero says working with raw earth material can be cathartic to someone trying to clear their mind.

Working in the studio brings him joy, and Romero believes art improves mental wellness -- and aids problem-solving.

Being forced to find a creative solution in art, helps to figure out the challenges of daily life.

For Romero, though, he makes sure people feel comfortable talking about mental health -- civilian or military:

"In the armed services, where people talk about 'you can't be mentally ill,' you can't be stressed out," Romero says. "But it's important, you know, and I tell people -- you come in here and we just talk about it. You need to talk to me. I always tell them because you need to be able to get that stuff out. There's nothing wrong with it."

Romero's studio has hosted a number of professionals -- from soldiers to healthcare workers. He says he's incredibly proud to have made a community space in his studio, where people feel comfortable sharing what's on their mind -- and talking about it together.

Avery Martinez is the Be Mindful Reporter for ABC-7, supported in part by Report for America. RFA helps provide reporters for under-covered topics across the country.

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