Programs We Fund: Resilience Grows Here

Posted 4 years ago


Resilience Grows Here (RGH) is a community that fosters the health and resilience of veterans across their lifespan. RGH operates a number of initiatives designed to assist returned servicemen in feeling valued and understood by their communities and having a place to gather and support each other, outside of traditional therapies. 

Mental illness has a profound effect on the wellbeing of men and boys in the US, with mental distress acting as a leading cause of premature death. Veterans and military service members are particularly at risk – they are nearly twice as likely to take their own lives as non-veterans, and military norms don’t encourage service members to ask for support. Yet, veterans and military service members also have cultural strengths that can be tapped into to build their resilience against mental health challenges.

Resilience Grows Here is a veteran-focused mental health initiative led by the Farmington Valley Health District (FVHD) in Canton, CT which is home to the National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing.  National Guard members live with the uncertainty of when deployment may arrive, and veterans navigate home without the structure and roles their service granted them. However, this community’s abundance of veterans and loving families has afforded them an opportunity to address these challenges and needs through Resilience Grows Here (RGH) which emphasizes the power of social connection inherent in this supportive community to prevent veterans from dying at their own hands. RGH’s goal is to lower the prevalence of suicide by reducing veterans’ isolation, destigmatizing mental illness, building resilience in boys and men, and creating safe spaces for veterans to connect with each other.

Present at every step in the process, veterans have been instrumental in determining what their community needs and what activities their comrades would find useful. “It’s so important that we pause, reach out, and listen to people who are struggling,” said Justine Ginsburg, RGH Director. A series of focus groups, interviews, and planning sessions generated a set of strategies to prevent suicide that was created by veterans for veterans.

Now, RGH offers a variety of programs for veterans, their family members, and the community including:

  • A peer-to-peer mentoring program that trains veterans to provide support and friendship to other veterans.
  • Suicide prevention training that teaches participants warning signs of suicide, how to ask someone about suicide, and how to persuade someone to get help.
  • Anzac, the program’s post-traumatic stress disorder therapy dog, participates in RGH public events and is available to social workers, psychologists, and clergy members at the local military base.
  • Partnerships with local schools to teach students about resilience through the exploration of topics such as friendship, boundaries, relationships, teamwork, communication, and asking for help.
  • Safe space activities like community meals, resource nights, film screenings, and other events meant to provide a place where veterans and their family members can come together and get community support. 

RGH is seeing results as they have reduced veteran isolation, improved the community’s understanding of the needs and sacrifices of veterans and their families, helped destigmatize mental illness and promote good mental health, and provided access to programs and services that meet the needs of veterans and their families. “RGH has made a massive difference in my life,” said Jason McQueeney of the Air Guard Reserve, an active volunteer and program participant. He continues, “RGH is beginning to change the culture of the 103rd Airlift Wing…RGH is changing the conversation.”

Our video covers a fraction of what RGH does. They work with the National Guard for enlistment preparation, they work with schools on resilience education and other social activities with military personnel.

The work they do is incredible and immense, and we’re proud to showcase what they do. Want the full story? View the Director’s Cut below!