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BK challenge draws attention to veteran suicides
Pushup Challenge
Blaker Kinser Junior High School students Cody Parmley (left) and Christian Janitz struggle in the 22 Pushup Challenge on Friday. Below teacher Nate Diamantine reads about the problem of veterans committing suicide. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

During his service in the U.S. Coast Guard, Nate Diamantine knew two individuals in his branch who committed suicide. Now an art teacher at Blaker Kinser Junior High School, Diamantine issued a challenge on Friday for students to attempt 22 pushups to raise awareness of veterans' suicides.

"Every day 22 veterans commit suicide," said Diamantine. "This is like the ice bucket challenge thing where people dump ice on themselves and challenge other people to do it. It's that same thing. Nobody's challenged us to do it but as a veteran myself I started doing this last year."

Celebrities like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Scott Eastwood, Chris Pratt and John Krasinski have done the 22 Pushup Challenge.

The challenge was completely voluntary and students were told if they can't do 22, then just do one or two or stand in the back and can't.

"Most students can't do 22 pushups."

Diamantine, 44, said one of his bosses hung himself and a friend killed himself as he was getting out.

"We don't know why they did it," he said.

Both men had been in the service for a while.

"This has gone up since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars began. But it's always been an issue because the longer people serve in the Armed Forces, the higher the suicide rate is. It's that transition. If you're in the military, you're used to the hard work, discipline, respect, devotion to duty - all those types of things. Then you come out in the real world and it's not quite the same."

BK students also made art posters drawing attention to the issue as well as the pushup challenge.

Diamantine has been teaching at BK for six years and considers it "the greatest thing in the world but also the most challenging thing I've ever done in my entire life."

Also a track coach at Central Valley High School, Diamantine did 66 pushups Friday during separate seventh and eighth grade lunch periods and with the dance team when they returned from a field trip later in the day.

Researchers found that the average age of a veteran who commits suicide is about 60. Analysts concluded that Vietnam and female veterans need particular focus. They also determined that a very intense period of risk for suicide is the first four weeks after someone leaves the military, and that this period requires strong monitoring and case management.

A study by the Veterans Administration revealed that the most common means of committing suicide by veterans - in half of the deaths - is drug overdose or poisoning.