For two hours on Wednesday, a steady flow of people did pushups in groups outside the RPAC, but those who participated weren’t in it for a workout. The Veteran Peer Mentors program within Ohio State’s Office of Military and Veteran Services and Vets 4 Vets, the Student Veterans of America Chapter at OSU, hosted the 22 Pushup Challenge, as September is suicide awareness month.
The pushup challenge holds significant meaning to the cause in its title, as the average number of veterans who commit suicide a day used to be 22. As of July, the average number of veterans who commit suicide daily has declined to 20 as of July 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but Rebecca Hall, a peer mentor in OSU’s Office of Military and Veteran Services who helped plan the event, decided to keep the number as 22.
“One is one too many, so it really doesn’t matter what the number is. We’re just trying to raise awareness so that way other veterans know that suicide is not the answer,” said Hall, a third-year in early childhood education.
An estimated 2,860 pushups were completed by about 130 participants, including students, faculty and veterans, over the challenge’s span from 2 to 4 p.m., Hall said.
While spreading awareness was the main goal of the event, Hall said, a veteran who served in the Marine Corp in Afghanistan, stressed the importance of resources being available for those in the community who lack support or are experiencing suicidal feelings, especially after a major transition.
“(Military life is) very structured, it’s very one direction, and when you go out of it and you decide to go to college it’s almost like a free for all,” Hall said. “You get to decide whether you want to go to class, you get to make all of the decisions in your life again, and it’s a hard transition for veterans because they’re not used to that lifestyle.”
Jarod Gray, a veteran community advocate in the Office of Military & Veterans Services encourages people to reach out to the veterans they know because it could make a great difference in their lives.
“The real sad part about the whole message is what does it take to show somebody that they’re not alone? It takes a phone call, it takes some minimal form of acknowledgement that you care, and that these people are important to you … who can’t spare those extra 30 seconds in their day,” Gray said.
The resources available are not only for veterans, but anyone who wants to learn more about suicide prevention.
Members of the Suicide Prevention Program at Ohio State were also present and offer REACH training. REACH stands for: recognize warnings signs, engage with empathy, ask directly about suicide, communicate hope and help suicidal individuals to access care and treatment.
“It’s really like mental health first aid, so it teaches people how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and mental illness and how to interact with this person and get them the help they need,” said Dylan Palfy, who works with the Suicide Prevention Program.
If you are a veteran or are concerned for one, call the Veterans Crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.