By Jake Hughes
That is the widely-cited number of veterans who take their own lives every single day in America. Whatever their reason—Post Traumatic Stress, depression, anxiety—it is a number greater than one, and that is too many. One organization is working to lower that number by encouraging veterans to pump iron.
Carter Davis started Lift For The 22 with the intent to raise awareness for veteran suicide and lower the prevalence. Through the organization, veterans get free or affordable gym memberships at participating gyms, currently around 19 across the US.
“It’s not just one service,” says Davis. “It’s not just a single mental health appointment. It is an entire year for a veteran to turn their lives around towards better health and wellness.”
Not just standard memberships, the program offers regular workouts and life, emotional, fitness, and readiness coaching. “We want the gyms to be an outlet for those veterans.”
The group strives to build the same sense of camaraderie that vets felt while in the service. Each participating gym will have a “chapter captain,” a veteran who organizes events and coordinates the rest of the members.
However, not all the program’s participants are suffering from PTS. According to the VA, non-combat veterans make up a significant number of veteran suicides.
“What we have is veterans who didn’t transition effectively, and they’re going through some pretty serious life situations because of that poor transition.”
Carter is dedicated to the problem of veteran suicide, for very personal reasons. At one point in his life, he was considering suicide.
“On the night I almost did it, I had two buddies come and take me to the gym, and that derailed my plans to commit. Once I realized I could exhaust my body and it would exhaust my mind as well, I knew we had a solution here.”
And the solution seems to be working. One stand-out story for Carter was when an owner of a participating gym had a veteran friend who was posting distressing things on Facebook. She asked Carter how she could reach out to her friend.
“She gave me his phone number, and the next day, he was at the gym with a full membership. He was an alcoholic, on his way to suicide or death by alcohol. That day, he quit and has not drunk since.”
Carter and the rest of the organization will keep doing what they’re doing, because for them, it’s all about helping veterans. “It’s one of the most beautiful things you can see when someone completely turn their life around because of a program you created. That is the most rewarding thing about this program.”
For more information, or if you or a friend are in a bad spot, visit liftforthe22.org for more information.