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Challenge brings awareness to high veteran suicide rates

Tribune-Star - 9/29/2018

Sept. 29--A few dozen Hamilton Center employees hit the ground Friday and used some muscle as they completed the final day of the 22-Pushup Challenge, aimed at bringing awareness to the high rate of military and veteran suicides in the U.S.

The effort was lead by Bill Little, Hamilton Center Military Veteran Program manager and a therapist for Vigo County outpatient. The group completed the challenge outdoors, behind the main center.

The national, social media-based challenge began a few years ago to promote awareness for veteran suicide prevention. At that time, there was an average of 22 military and veteran suicides everyday in the U.S.; the number has since dropped to 20.4.

"That number is still too high. One is too many. Zero is what we want," Little said as part of a Facebook Live lead-in to the pushups. Hamilton Center wants to bring awareness to the problem because suicide "is the most preventable cause of death."

At the center, "We know it's working. We're doing something right," he said. "Every day we see people struggling, and they decide it's time to reach out for help ... they don't want to struggle alone anymore. They are taking that step forward."

He encouraged those struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide to reach out, if not to Hamilton Center, then to other counselors or family members. "There is help here and hope here," he said.

He then lead the way and counted off as employees did their 22 pushups.

It's the third year the center has participated in the event. The challenge took place over 22 days, involving 22 different groups or organizations, including athletic teams, community leaders, law enforcement, elected officials and others.

As the military veteran program manager, "We want to bring awareness to that tragic number, but also bring awareness to what can be done to help prevent suicide and help to get that number down to zero," Little said.

Suicide is the number two leading cause of death in the U.S. for all demographics ages 10 to 34, men, women and children. Last year, there were 19,000 homicides in the U.S., but 44,000 suicides, he said.

For anyone contemplating suicide, Little suggests, "If they feel they've tried everything and lost all hope, I would ask them, encourage them, implore them, to try one more thing. Don't do it today ... reach out to one more person."

Little can be contacted at his office by calling 812-231-3747, which is a non-emergency line, or by email at mvp@hamiltoncenter.org. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Little is a 22-year veteran of the army. "I make use of my experiences in connecting with these guys and drawing on parallels between my service and their service," he said.

Describing the 22-pushup challenge, he said, "We have a blast ... it's such a tough subject to talk about, but the only way we can make an impact is to talk about it. If we hide it, it never gets any better."

Also participating in the event was Charles Walls, who served in the Indiana Army National Guard for 12 years.

"It's a good cause ... if it saves just one person and sends them in the right direction," he said. He is friends with Little, a fellow vet. They look out for each other. If one of them needs to talk, the other is there.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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(c)2018 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)

Visit The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.) at tribstar.com

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