From January 18 through February 16, the HNU Student Veteran Alliance (HNUSVA) held a 22 Push-Up Challenge event every day of the week, for a total of 22 days. The first 21 days of the campaign took place in the Public Market, where participants gathered to do 22 push-ups in a row. The challenge was designed to raise awareness of veterans’ mental health issues; on average, 22 veterans commit suicide everyday--and the HNUSVA wanted to draw attention to that staggering statistic.
HNU senior Cam Kollar, veteran and founder of HNUSVA, expounded upon the mental health issues that the club wanted to highlight. “Veteran females are 2.4 times more likely to commit suicide than their civilian counterparts; that rate for veteran females has increased by 85.2% from 2001-2014,” she said. “In 2014 veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide by US adults, while veterans only constituted 8.5% of the population.
“More important is the fact that veterans need to know that they are not alone,” Kollar said. “Since veterans make up only 8.5% of the population, it isn't enough for just veterans to speak up and say that there is a problem with the current system. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn't make it easy for veterans to get the mental health services needed. One problem is the simple fact that they do not have enough providers to cover the existing amount of veterans who need help. Yet when you consider that every time a soldier, sailor, or airman separates or retires, the veteran population grows. The VA staff and services aren't growing at the same rate that they are accumulating veterans. I hope that this event series helped students at HNU realize that their voice is needed to help shed light on problems in order for solutions to be found.”
The final event of the 22 Push-Up Challenge—day 22—was held during halftime of the HNU men’s basketball home game on Thursday, February 16. Student-athletes from several of HNU’s athletic teams participated, in addition to students, faculty, staff, and community members.
“It was a powerful moment to see when the bleachers emptied and the court filled up with students wearing school jerseys, colors, and other gear,” Kollar said. “That evening we had 110 people on the court, and that showed everyone that we at HNU can come together and show that we care. We did those pushups because HNU is one of the most diverse universities in the country and we advocate for the marginalized, promote cross-cultural competence, and we speak up when there is a problem. On Thursday, we did 2,420 pushups. Over the entire event series we did 6,746 pushups.”
In addition, as part of the campaign, HNUSVA partnered with HNU’s Integrative Studies Across Cultures program to host a screening in the VCPA of Project 22, a documentary about two veterans making a motorcycle journey across the U.S. to raise awareness of the high suicide rate amongst veterans.
Kollar mentioned that the HNUSVA is planning to hold an event series later this semester focused on professional development. For those interested in sharing their professional experiences with HNUSVA, please contact the club by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the organization, please see the HNUSVA Facebook page.