April 10, 2019 GMT

NANTICOKE — At 11:22 a.m. Tuesday, about two dozen people at Luzerne County Community College stopped, dropped and cranked out 22 pushups. The group gathered in a courtyard beside the college’s library was participating in the 22 Push-up Challenge for Veteran Suicide Awareness. The college’s wellness committee and its Health and Physical Education department organized the event, which will take place through April. The number 22 has became symbolic among some groups focused on preventing suicide among veterans. A 2012 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs report estimated 22 veterans died from suicide for every day in 2010. That numbers includes active-duty servicemembers and members of the National Guard and Reserve, not just veterans. Veterans Affairs cautioned the number is based on information reported on state death certificates and may be subject to reporting error. In September 2018, the VA released another report that looked at data from 2005 to 2016. That showed an age- and gender-adjusted suicide rate of about 26 per 100,000 for veterans and about 17 per 100,000 for non-veteran adults. One goal of the month-long challenge is to bring more attention to the public-health issue for both veterans and non-veterans, said Ed Gurtis, chiar of the Health and, Physical Education department. The challenge is part of a health promotions class that sees students getting out of the classroom to use what they’ve learned. Other events the class has organized include a health fair where participants can test their body composition and grip strength, among other things, and a 5K run and walk. The push-up challenge is new this year. As part of the class, for example, students involved try to promote the event to encourage more participation. Second-year students David Brigido and Tyler Pagnotti first learned about the event when their psychology professor took the class to participate. The two students from Plains Twp. decided to continue coming on their own. “We wanted to show our support for veterans,” Brigido said. “I think it’s a good cause.” For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Contact the writer: bwellock@citizensvoice.com 570-821-2051, @CVBillW NEED HELP? For help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.