22 Push-up challenge raises awareness of suicide among vets - WNEM TV 5

22 Push-up challenge raises awareness of suicide among vets

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SAGINAW COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

The 22 Push-up Challenge is the next internet wave and it's aimed at helping the hundreds of veterans who commit suicide every year.

"It's a great endeavor. It brings awareness," said Sharleen Gray, suicide prevention coordinator for the Saginaw VA. Gray applauds the challenge.

About two dozen veterans commit suicide every day. Gray said the number is especially high for female veterans, with an 80 percent increase in the suicide rate over the last 16 years.

"Military sexual trauma, PTSD related issues. I think also juggling family life and other kind of psycho-social issues that are going on," Gray said.

Other officials with the VA shared some of the programs they use to help prevent suicide.

"We have a PTSD treatment program that specialized in treating PTSD, reducing the symptoms and helping veterans increase the quality of their life," said Stephen Swender, clinical psychologist.

Swender said successfully treating PTSD is the biggest way to reduce suicide among veterans.

The Department of Veteran's Affairs also offers programs to treat depression. The agency provides social work services to help veterans transition back to civilian life.

Swender urges residents to do what they can if they know of a vet in need of help.

"The biggest thing they can do is encourage them to come to the VA," Swender said.

As for Gray, she wants vets to know it takes a strong person to ask for help. As the 22 Push-up Challenge grows, she hopes more vets will do just that.

"That awareness will make people more aware and encourage veterans to come in and seek help," Gray said.

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