Westford vet has seen PTSD’s toll. With new group, he’s reaching out
Editor’s note: This is the latest in The Sun’s “Be a Volunteer” series, focusing on people who join community nonprofits. Got a suggestion? Email it to email@example.com.
By Rick Sobey
BILLERICA — Scott Hyder hadn’t heard from his brother Nicky for a few days.
Hyder went over to his brother’s house to make sure everything was OK.
His brother, a retired corrections officer, had committed suicide. Nicky had been battling depression and PTSD — just like so many veterans, police officers, firefighters and first responders.
In the wake of this tragedy, Hyder knew he had to do something.
“I wanted to make sure nobody goes through what my family had gone through,” said Hyder, an Army veteran and current police officer in Westford.
He began to work with a local suicide prevention and awareness team, participating in numerous Out of The Darkness Walks sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The team became AFSP’s national top fundraising team, raising more than $250,000 for treatment, diagnosis, lobbying efforts and more.
Hyder enjoyed the fundraising, but it wasn’t enough on a local level; he set out to help those veterans, police officers, firefighters and first responders struggling. As a result, he recently founded the nonprofit called Hidden Battles Foundation.
The organization strives to help preserve the healthy minds of veterans, police officers, firefighters and first responders through treatment and counseling for depression, suicidal tendencies and PTSD.
“Whenever you hear of someone committing suicide, it’s always shock and, ‘No way. He was always happy,’ ” said Hyder, 44, of Lowell. “Well, there is that hidden battle going on that’s being fought in the mind.”
These suicides are often related to mental-health issues stemming from PTSD, job-related stress, traumatic brain injuries, and the daily struggle of separating military service back to civilian life, he said.
“A lot of people think that when we punch out, we punch out, but we really don’t,” Hyder said. “When you do CPR on a child, it really affects you. Or when you go to a house where a domestic has happened, it really takes a toll on you because these people could be your neighbors.
“When people get hurt, it’s not something we wash off at the end of the shift,” he added. “It’s in there with you.”
These individuals need an outlet, whether it’s a peer group, a service dog or team-building therapy, he said.
Scott Hyder, a police officer in Westford, is the founder of Hidden Battles Foundation, a nonprofit that strives to help preserve the healthy minds of veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders through treatment and counseling. The inaugural Hidden Battles Cornhole Tournament is on Sept. 23 at the Billerica Elks. COURTESY PHOTO
As a result, Hidden Battles offers monthly, confidential meetings amongst peers in a safe environment.
“We can talk to each other, buddy up and tell it the way it is,” Hyder said. “We can talk without the fear of being judged.”
Hidden Battles will host community events in partnership with other related organizations to raise awareness and prevention.
Also, Hyder would like to send surviving children of those lost to suicide to activity-driven summer camps. In addition, Hidden Battles plans on donating funds to service dog organizations to provide service dogs to those in need.
Hidden Battles is a component fund of the Greater Lowell Community Foundation.
Later this month, Hidden Battles will hold a fundraiser in Billerica. The inaugural Hidden Battles Cornhole Tournament will take place at the Billerica Elks on Sept. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The family-friendly day will have activities, demonstrations, cash prizes, a DJ, live music and more. There will be a magician, Maddy’s Moon Jumpy House, hula-hoop contest and face painting.
The event will have a Touch-a-Truck with Billerica Police and Fire vehicles, along with a Middlesex Sheriff SWAT vehicle. There will be hamburgers, hot dogs, snacks and beverages.
To eat and play cornhole, it costs $35 a person for early registration, and $45 a person for day-of registration. Other than eating and playing cornhole, it’s free admission on Sept. 23.
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.