I have been asked a number of times to participate in and also what my opinion is of the current viral trend of the 22 Push-Ups In 22 Days Challenge.
When this first started appearing on social media I was in two minds about it. Sure, it’s raising awareness for Veteran Suicide but…
My first issue was that it stated US Servicepersons Suicide statistics and not Australian.
Secondly, it often stopped being about the cause and more about the individual/group in a lot of instances.
When I’m watching people bust out one-handed push-ups or advertising some supplement while doing so; I am watching that person steer a serious issue towards a ramp getting ready to jump the shark.
The actual shark jumping occurred when various Defence groups, specifically the Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force, started producing slick videos as part of pseudo-recruiting initiatives. Pardon the language, but, kindly go fuck yourself with a big garden rake.
One of the biggest contributing factors of suicide amongst Australian service people is the stigma and bullying that often comes with asking for assistance for mental health issues. Many a person has teetered on the edge, reached back for something to hold onto and found an uncaring SNCO/WO or Officer with their arms folded. Sure they didn’t push, but they sure as hell didn’t try to hold them back.
Over 240 Australian Veterans have died due to suicide in the past decade. Eight good men I served with in Iraq and Afghanistan are amongst that number. I was almost one of them.
I have campaigned on this issue for a number of years. I have stood before strangers in an auditorium sharing my story in the hope it would help others, implored Service Chief’s for fundamental changes to mental health support in the ADF, petitioned MP’s and Senators, and even spoken openly with a Prime Minister.
I can honestly say that in that time I have not seen a campaign that has rallied the Government into action. Getting the public’s attention is the only way the Government will enact change for the better. The simple fact is if dead Veterans, shattered families and constant pressure won’t change attitudes, 22 Push-Ups will not be the turning point in a battle that has spanned generations of Australian Veterans and countless armed conflicts and wars.
But it will be another vital piece in an incredibly big and complex puzzle. Many people have set up fundraising pages to coincide with their Push-Up Challenge and I applaud them for that. I would also recommend that anyone doing the Challenge take a few minutes and post their reasons for doing so on the Facebook Page of Hon Dan Tehan MP – Minister for Veterans Affairs.