WORKING (OUT) to Raise Awareness about Veteran Suicide

Exercise can help veterans with depression and may decrease suicide risk

working-out-to-raise-awareness-about-veteran-suicideThe devastating and heartbreaking statistic was a tremendous wakeup call for many. Every day somewhere in America, 22 U.S . military veterans take their own lives. The Veterans Administration 2012 Suicide Data Report, which calculated the frightening rate of veteran suicide, was at once shocking and a call to action.

One way to begin to address the crisis, in addition to outreach to make sure vets are receiving the mental health care they need given post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are potential mediators, came in the form of research studies that showed that exercise can reduce depression, and hopefully, suicidal ideation.

A 2013 study on veteran suicide by the American Association of Suicidology that examined the impact of exercise on suicide risk, namely by examining the relationship between PTSD, depression and sleep disturbances, found that exercise does reduce depression and benefit sleep, which in turn may help lower suicide risk.

Twenty-two veterans committing suicide every day is a harsh reality. But the Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior study provides hope as does Derek Weida, the amputee Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq, and is now known globally for his inspirational, motivational and often hilarious, fitness videos that document his journey.

There are myriad national and regional efforts to raise awareness about veteran suicide using the very thing that may, for some, help fight the PTSD and depression battle with a commitment to exercise and fitness.

Nationally, 22KILL is a movement bridging the gap between veterans and civilians to build a community of support by working to raise awareness to the veteran suicide epidemic and educate the public on mental health issues such as PTSD. Founded by Honor Courage Commitment Inc., #22KILL is a platform to bring understanding and raise awareness about the struggles of transitioning out of the military: “The solution is veteran empowerment. One of the biggest challenges veterans face is finding a sense of purpose after service.”

The group encourages people to advocate for veterans and show support by participating in a push-up challenge.

Its goal is to get 22 million pushups performed to honor those who serve.

“Every pushup counts so don’t be shy to show your support for our veterans. You can do as many or few pushups as you can or choose. Whether it’s 1 or 100 in a row, we will accept them however they come. They can be assisted (on your knees), incline (on a desk/wall), or if you physically are unable to do any, we’ll even take air pushups. They all count towards the goal as long as you follow the instructions below,” the website reads. Simply perform as many pushups as you can and post a video or photo with a hashtag indicating the number of pushups completed and post publically to social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and /or to YouTube. The hashtag would appear this way: #(insert a number here)pushups #22KILL.

Locally, the Sgt. Eric Landon 5K is set for July 30 in Dunedin. Landon took his own life and the 5K is at once a way to honor his memory and support Stop Soldier Suicide. For more information or to register for the event, visit

CrossFit Bradenton is holding a WOD to End Veteran Suicide set for Aug. 20. The CrossFit Bradenton WOD to End Veteran Suicide will include 22 exercises and 22 reps of each. At minute 22 into the WOD, everyone will stop and take a two-minute moment of silence for those who have died in the veteran suicide epidemic. Participants can register for free or grab the WOD Shirt and Active Heroes information and materials by visiting or

Coming in October, an Irreverent Warriors ‘Silkies Hike’ is set for Sarasota. The hike has participants hiking 22km, carrying 22 kg packs for the 22 veterans a day that commit suicide. The event began as a single hike in 2015 and within a few months it took off nationwide. Founded by Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC, the two had each lost a close friend to suicide.

In part, the mission of Irreverent Warriors is to help veterans heal the mental wounds of war through therapeutic events in order to reduce PTSD and help prevent veteran suicide.

Check back with for details on the Oct. 6 Irreverent Warriors hike.