A dozen tiny ballet dancers are down on the floor at the Seminole Recreation Center doing pushups.
It’s not just an exercise to build muscle or endurance for dance. The pushups are part of a larger project designed to call attention to a nationwide problem — the high rate of suicide among military veterans. A 2012 report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs noted that, on average, 22 veterans kill themselves every day.
“It was something we saw through social media,” Seminole recreation director Becky Gunter said of the pushup project. City officials thought it would be a great idea to use the recreation center, 9100 113th St. N, to call attention to the issues veterans face.
The 22Kill movement is the brainchild of members of a Dallas-based organization, Honor Courage Commitment, Inc., who were so stunned by the statistic, they resolved to raise awareness of what they call a suicide epidemic among veterans. They also decided to educate members of the public about mental health issues, especially post-traumatic stress and the struggles transitioning from military to civilian life.
The result was 22Kill, which they describe as a “global movement bridging the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support.”
They chose the name 22Kill as a reference to the VA data, but also “to grab people’s attention, because our primary mission begins with raising awareness to the issue,” according to the website.
“Suicide prevention is a very difficult task to undertake, especially when the general public is unaware of the issue in the first place. In order to prevent or ‘fix’ a problem, one must first learn and understand the problem itself and its causes,” it says. “By educating ourselves, we’ll be able to identify the triggers that can lead someone to thoughts of suicide, and confront those issues as they come, rather than letting them accumulate into something much worse.”
The #22pushups is one of the group’s projects. The overall goal is to get 22 million pushups. The group is asking participants to video the pushups then load it on the organization’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram account using the hashtag #22Kill and the number of pushups in the post. (For full directions, go here.)
The group isn’t picky. The pushups don’t have to be good. They’ll even take air pushups. Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, who has an injured wrist, says she’s committed to 22 situps.
And they don’t necessarily have to be the same people doing pushups each day. Gunter, the recreation director, said that, as of Friday, the city was in its 17th day of the 22 days. The first day, recreation center employees did the pushups. Then they expanded to various classes, including the ballet class for 3- and 4-year-olds. The only requirement is that a rec employee be present to lead the set.
Gunter said she believes it’s a worthwhile cause and that the center has called attention to the problem. Still, she said, it’s good the 22 days will end soon “because we’re getting sore.”