22 Pushup Challenge Raises Awareness For Veteran Suicide With Celebs, Olympians

By Kelly Burch 08/18/16

Chris Pratt, The Rock, and Simone Manuel are a few of the high-profile participants in the viral campaign's mission to promote veterans' mental health issues.

22 Pushup Challenge Raises Awareness For Veteran Suicide With Celebs, Olympians

Each day, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide. Now, a new social media challenge is aiming to bring light to the issue, using the hashtag #22PushUpChallenge.

The initiative has some high-profile participants, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and actor Chris Pratt. 

“We’re thinking about you and we want to raise awareness for this terrible reality,” Pratt said in a video posted on Instagram. Pratt, who starred in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy, took the challenge with his wife, Anna Faris, and kicked off a chain reaction of celebrity participants. After doing his 22 pushups, Pratt challenged Dwayne Johnson, Vincent D’Onofrio and John Krasinski to do the same. 

The challenge is being promoted by 22Kill.com, an organization that aims to raise awareness of veteran suicides and mental health issues. 

Many civilians do not realize the mental health challenges that veterans face. The suicide rate among veterans is 50% higher than in civilian populations with the same demographics, according to the LA Times. The rates are highest in the first three years that a veteran is discharged from the military. 

The plight of veterans who defended our country clearly struck a chord with celebrities and others. The #22PushUpChallenge has taken off in the last few days. 

“If you’re a vet and you’re going thru it, just know we’re thinking about you and you’re not alone,” Dwayne Johnson said on Instagram. “Be strong, have faith, keep fighting that good fight and there’s always a better day.”

Two summers ago, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 Million to fight ALS. However, the #22PushUpChallenge is focused on raising awareness, rather than money. 

"When the statistics came out that 22 veterans a day were committing suicide it was almost unbelievable. We wanted to find out more where this number came from," said retired Marine Don Nguyen, who is the deputy director of 22Kill.

One veteran who attempted suicide in the past told CBS that if there was a greater awareness of veterans’ suicides, he may not have attempted. 

"If I knew of an organization at the time that was doing what we are at 22Kill, I don't feel I would've attempted suicide,” said Rusty Carter, an army veteran who tried to kill himself after coming home from Iraq in 2011. 

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently undertaking the largest study yet, looking at suicides among veterans from 1979 to 2014. 

“One veteran suicide is one too many, and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy,” said VA Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David J. Shulkin. “We as a nation must focus on bringing the number of veteran suicides to zero."

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.