You may have noticed your social media lighting up recently with videos of people doing pushups and the tag #22pushupchallenge and talking about raising awareness for Veterans suicide. What’s it all about?
On its surface, the Pushup Challenge is easy: Do 22 pushups, post a video and tag it. If you can’t do 22, do 10 or five, or just try really hard. It’s reminiscent of 2014’s #ALSIceBucketChallenge, and the mission is just as important. The 22 represents the claim that, on average, 22 military veterans take their own lives every day in the United States.
The Challenge was started by the veteran group Honor Courage Commitment. The group’s 22KILL movement works to build a community of support for veterans and raise awareness for mental health challenges they face. The #22PushupChallenge is one way to put words into action as well as capitalize on the viral nature of social media, instead of just calling for “awareness.” The ultimate goal of the project is to reach 22 million pushups, and the group uses people’s tags to keep a live tally.
As with most viral social media movements, it took celebrity backing to really catch fire. Actors Dwayne Johnson, John Krasinski, Chris Pratt and Kevin Bacon and growing number of celebrities are posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with their challenge videos.
The number 22 is originally from statistics quoted in the Department of Veteran Affairs’ 2012 Suicide Data Report where a survey of veteran deaths in 21 states was conducted. “If this prevalence estimate is assumed to be constant across all U.S. states, an estimated 22 Veterans will have died from suicide each day in the calendar year 2010,” the report says.
According to a more recent release from the VA Suicide Prevention Program, an average of 20 veterans died of suicide each day in 2014. While the numbers aren’t exactly equal, 20 suicides per day is still alarming, and something worth raising awareness for so that American Veterans can get the aid and support they so desperately need.
The important message of the #22PushupChallenge is clear: Public support can help veterans tackle the overwhelming challenges they sometimes face after they leave the uniform behind.