Veterans, celebrities and now Olympic Athletes are joining citizens in posting videos of themselves doing 22 push-ups to raise awareness about veteran suicide prevention.
Statistics from 2010 showed that 22 veterans a day were taking their lives.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson participated and then challenged Team USA Olympic Gold Medal Swimmer Simone Manuel to do the same. She, in turn, challenged 23 time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps to do 23 push-ups with his medals on.
The effort is being promoted by veterans' groups and a non-profit group called 22-Kill. The organization hopes to reach 22 million push-ups.
A new report was recently released from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that studied 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014. It showed that the number of veterans who commit suicide a day has declined from 22 in 2010 to 20 a day in 2014.
Dr. Neal Doran is the Director of Clinical Improvement Mental Health at VA San Diego Healthcare and an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Diego. He says things that put veterans at risk for suicide are the same things that put non-veterans at risk such as substance abuse, family conflict, financial or housing difficulties.
“I think there's a public perception that the majority of veterans who are dying by suicide are from the more recent, post 9/11, but actually about two thirds of them are older--fifty or older,” Doran said.
But the report showed that the highest suicide rates are for young veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Inherent Resolve.
“It may be because their experiences are more recent, it's a little bit more acute,” Doran said.
He says there are signs to look for.
“Being isolated and being less interested in interacting with people giving away possessions and talking about death a lot.
The Veterans Administration report also showed while suicides were up by 8 percent since 2001 for veterans getting treatment at the VA, it was up by 38.8 percent of veterans who were not getting care from the VA.
Doran says that reaching out for help is the most important thing a veteran can do.
The VA has walk-in clinics at their health centers and the emergency room is open 24/7. There is also a 24-hour Veterans Crisis line at 1-800-8255 and there are follow-up counselors who continue to help the veteran after the initial crisis.