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Celebrities do 22 pushups challenge to raise awareness

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On Aug. 15, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson participated in an Internet challenge, once that involves a good cause.

After he finished his pushups, he called out a few friends: Kevin Hart, Chris Pratt, Olympian gold medalist Simone Manuel, and Houston Texan JJ Watt.

Watt himself participated the following day, despite having back surgery the previous month.

The Texans defensive end posted his video with the caption, “Raising awareness for those who fight for our freedom and the aftermath of that fight. They shouldn’t have to face it alone,” followed by the hash tags, #PushUpsArePartOfMyRehab, and #DoctorApproved.

It’s the 22 push-up challenge, in which these celebrities do to raise awareness for the number of veterans who commit suicide a day. The number was based on a 2012 report released by the Department of Veterans Affair.

“The pushup challenge is gaining more momentum.” Marine veteran Derek Cirilo said. “I’m glad it’s picking up steam again.”

The pushup challenge began with Don and Andy Nguyen, founders of the organization, 22 Kill. The organization aims to build community support as well as raise awareness on mental health.

For the pushup challenge, participants record themselves doing the 22 pushups, and challenge others to participate on their social media.

Army veteran and pushup participant Ian Todd said it also raises awareness to the hotlines, especially through social media.

“It’s like six degree of Kevin Bacon,” Todd said.  “Whoever has suicide ideations sees it, and maybe they can call the (veteran crisis) hotline.”

In July, the VA released the 2016 Suicide Data Report. The updated report said the number of veterans committing suicide on a daily basis was 20, and not 22 as said in the 2012 Suicide Data Report.

The new report also said since 2001,there was an increase in suicide in the general U.S. population by 23 percent, while veteran suicides increased 32 percent.

“Out of the 20 who died by suicide each day, we know that six of the twenty were users of VA services,” said Sarah Northrup, a suicide prevention coordinator at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.

Since 2001, the VA report pointed out that the suicide rate for veterans who utilized VA services increased by 8.8 percent, while the rate for veterans who did not used the services increased by 38.6 percent.

“The stats also show that the majority of veteran suicide consisted of those who never deployed, versus those who did deployed.”

Northrup said there are many factors that can increase the risk, such as military sexual trauma and adjusting to life after the military. However, Northrup said when it comes to suicide, it’s hard to pinpoint it to one thing.

“A lot of different things can collide in someone’s background, like their social experience, or their mental health, which may be common in their family,” Northrup said.

Upon separation, Cirilo had his own personal struggles.

“I got to the point of I didn’t even know what kind of non-profits were out there (to help veterans),” Cirilo said.

Then in November 2014, Cirilo, along with a few Marine Corps and civilian friends, began an organization based on Cirilo’s vision and what they could push out there.

“It was something I had dealt with personally throughout my Marine Corps career and watched a lot of my own friends take their own lives,” Cirilo said.

He also based it on his own struggles, from being homeless to reestablishing himself back into the community.

Thus, 22 Until None was born.

Now the local organization has gone worldwide. With staff members and locations in Japan, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, Europe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Central and South America.

However, Cirilo said the predominate focus is the United States and the U.S. territories.

“We like to keep it some sort of reach out there as to how we can harness all of the resources within the nation,” Cirilo said. “Our principal is, if we don’t have it on hand, we’ll help you find it. We’ll send you on the right direction; we’re not going to send you blindly back out there.”

Northrup said the VA is known for evidence-based therapies used to help veterans dealing with any sort of mental health crisis, such as cognizant behavior therapy and dialectical behavior therapy.

“We also have our general mental health clinic, and that specializes different areas,” Northrup said. “We have a program that works with veterans who have substance abuse problems, programs that focus on PTSD.”

In addition, there is the Veteran Crisis Line. Though, in February 2016, the Military Times reported that some calls went straight to voicemail and some vets in distress never got a call back.

As of July, the Crisis Line director resigned and not all calls are answered.

The VA continues to face criticism on medical care access. Last week, a 76-year-old veteran committed suicide at a VA in New York after being turned away at the emergency room.

“There’s certainly always going to be complaints about things that are going on,” Northrup said. What I can say from my experience here is that we have a lot of people here that care and do a really great job with our veterans.”

However, Northrup said if a veteran had a bad experience, she said to return and lets try it again.

“There are people here who want to help, and treatment is available,” Northrup said. “And to offer the message that recovery and getting to a better place is possible. I see us doing it everyday, and certainly there’s always room for improvement.”

Todd himself gets involve with other organizations such as the Out of the Darkness Walk that occurs every spring in Houston. He adds that although money does not end suicide, it helps spread the word and raises awareness.

“You can’t pay for a cure, but you can pay and raise funds for people who are willing to listen and talk on those hotlines willing to help.”

For more information on the Suicide Data Report or VA mental health services, visit mentalhealth.va.gov.

If you or someone you know needs more information, visit the Veteran Crisis Line, 22 Until None, or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

If you need someone to talk to, call the Suicide Prevention Life Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Veterans press “1.”









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