In a previous article, I wrote about my journey to the 23rd push-up.
As you will read in that blog, after every triathlon they complete, Airborne Tri Team members will gather at the finish line to do 22 push-ups to honor their fallen brothers and sisters lost to suicide plus one in memory of Steve. The Airborne Tri Team has truly taken me under their wing and have helped me tremendously throughout my grief journey. Ron from Airborne Tri Team and Patrick from Project9line have given me purpose to continue to raise awareness of how much of a problem suicide is, both in the veterans community and the civilian population in general. Society still wants to put their heads in the sand and not deal with a very real and pressing issue, as evidenced by the actions of ABC’s Good Morning America’s producers on September 8,2016.
I was conflicted tying civilian suicide with veterans suicide by nature of the 23rd push-up as the individual journeys to that point of despair may be very different. However when I saw a quote from Jacob Schick, (Executive Director of 22KILL, the organization that initiated the 22 push-up challenge) my position changed:
“Mental health is not just a warrior issue, it is a societal issue.”
Knowing Steve, I am sure he would not want to be the only one honored with the 23rd push-up. Now, in my mind, in addition to Steve, it now represents Arlene, Matt, Jill, Jonathan, Brian, Suzy, Joseph, Doug, Kyle, Jackie, Anita, Arlene and the countless other civilians who suffered such intense mental and emotional pain, so much so, they had to take their own lives as the pain must have been unbearable. It also symbolizes to me, all of the devastated suicide survivors left behind.
Now, when they finish their triathlon and the veterans of Airborne Tri Team do their 23rd push-up, these warriors are still providing invaluable service to their country in a different capacity by raising awareness of the mental health issues society as a whole is faced with today
In my grief journey since I have published Slipped Away, I have found strength in other suicide survivors as we share the same immeasurable pain, whether it was a partner, a child, a sibling, a friend, an aunt, uncle, parent or cousin lost to suicide. Good mental health will not magically appear unless we are aware that it is something we must no longer ignore and is so critical to our well being.