A Colorado nonprofit, led by a former Navy bomb disposal expert and combat veteran, is confronting the crisis of yuletide suicide among America’s heroes with an innovative concept known as “post-traumatic growth.”
More first responders die from suicide than in the line of duty, the Boulder Crest Foundation said in a statement — while suicide takes the lives of 44 veterans per day.
Unexplained drug overdoses more than double that number.
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The number of suicides spikes dramatically during the holidays, according to military and veteran sources.
“Operation Struggle Well” is a new effort by the Boulder Crest Foundation to face the crisis by putting 1,500 first responders through its programs that champion post-traumatic growth.
It’s the belief that shocking experiences that veterans and first responders endure pose an opportunity for them to improve their lives — rather than creating a prison sentence of lifelong victimhood or disorder.
“Post-traumatic growth suggests the old adage that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger,” Boulder Crest founder and chairman Ken Falke told Fox News Digital.
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“It’s a realization that adversity can forge you, that it can make you a better, stronger person — provided you take the right steps during the times when you’re struggling.”
“Post-traumatic growth is a realization that adversity can forge you.” — Ken Falke, Boulder Crest Foundation
Those right steps include, for example, turning for help instead of turning to drugs and alcohol during times of personal crisis.
Falke served for 21 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring as a master chief petty officer.
He was a member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community throughout his career. He defused bombs in combat situations — a ruthlessly nerve-wracking duty.
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Falke said that America’s heroes need help more than ever, especially during the holidays, which pose psychological challenges for millions of American every year.
Boulder Crest’s “Struggle Well” (for first responders) and “Warrior Path” (for veterans) programs have already treated 1 million people, the organization says.
“Operation Struggle Well” is an effort to raise money to treat another 1,500 first responders who are currently on its waiting list.
Falke and his organization are hoping that concerned Americans will donate $10 per month — “less than a Netflix account” costs — to help first responders and veterans “struggle well.”
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He also hopes the concept of post-traumatic growth will supplant the stereotype of veterans and first responders as victims.
They may be, and in many cases already are, the strongest, wisest, most experienced and most productive members of our society.
Falke cites one study of American POWS from the Vietnam War, people who went through years of imprisonment and torture.
“The mental health community told their families to be prepared to institutionalize [them] when they got home,” said Falke.
Presenting Vietnam veterans as helpless victims became a stereotype perpetuated in pop culture and media.
“The exact opposite happened to the POWs,” he said.
“They turned out to be the most upbeat and positive people.”
It was that discovery, Falke said, “that set me off on this journey” to help veterans and first responders grow from the tragedy of their experiences.
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