Can 22 Suicides Among Veterans-a-day be Reduced by 22 Push Ups?

Sep 28, 2016

Staff and volunteers from Contact Community Services and the Red Cross's Western and Central New York Chapter took to the ground to raise awareness of veterans suicide rate.
Credit Dan Hartman/Redcross.org

Volunteers and staff from the Central New York chapter of the American Red Cross and Contact Community Services hit the ground Wednesday to prevent suicide.

They completed push-ups as part of the 22-Kill Movement, built upon Veterans Affairs statistics that each day 22 vets take their lives.  P-T-S-D and homelessness are often cited as causes. The Red Cross’s Service to the Armed Forces Director Judy Pollman says returning to civilian life can be a difficult.

“I think it’s obvious that in a situation of war and combat its very traumatic, very stressful.  What we’re really trying to take a look at is raising awareness for people to recognize signs of depression, recognize signs of potential suicide, and really just want to support our veterans and let them know how much we appreciate the service that they’ve given to the country.”

But identifying signs of suicide isn’t easy. Contact’s Youth Prevention Specialist Arsenio Wallace cautions warnings can be subtle.

Credit contactsyracuse.org

“It doesn’t always come as it looks.  Someone can be total normal and healthy and inside it’s not what it seems.  So just be aware of the smaller statements or maybe the minute change in behavior.  So if someone is really invested in something and they just don’t do it, for example bowling or hiking and they just stop, that should be a tell-tale sign that something’s going on.”  

Contact’s Anthony Steele works taking hotline calls from veterans and others who are contemplating suicide.

“We always legitimize the feelings, we always legitimize what they’re going through.  I think people do feel suicidal on a daily basis.  The thing that we want to promote is, it’s ok to feel suicidal; we don’t want you to make an attempt.  We don’t want you to try and take your life.  We don’t want people actually following through with the act.”

The 22 push-up challenge is similar to the ice-bucket challenge for A-L-S awareness.  Steele hopes people will be intrigued to learn more.

“The hope is that people will see the challenge, see the videos and then they’ll explore more on their own.  They’ll get some mental health training, maybe they’re interested in that.  Maybe they want to come volunteer for a place like Contact that helps with direct support to people who are suicidal.”

To volunteer or for information about suicide prevention, go to Contact-Syracuse-dot-org