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Gerald Hassell: Why I’m Raising Awareness of Veteran Suicide

Watch me participate in the #22PushupChallenge

Gerald Hassell: Why I’m Raising Awareness of Veteran Suicide

October 07, 2016

Posted By: Gerald Hassell   |  Chairman and CEO, BNY Mellon

Twenty-two U.S. military veterans commit suicide every day on average, according to figures released in 2013. This year we learned that the suicide rate among American veterans has increased by nearly a third since 2001.

I recently received a note from BNY Mellon employee Ajene Oden, a recent graduate of our company’s Emerging Leaders Program. Ajene challenged me to participate in the #22PushupChallenge. You may have heard about this challenge through social media.

It’s simple: do 22 pushups for 22 days and post a video of me doing them to raise awareness of this epidemic that afflicts veterans worldwide.

I wanted to know what inspired Ajene to take action.

“My grandfather, Samuel Oden, who has been my lifelong hero, served in the Korean War. After the war he worked three jobs to support his family, saving every penny he had. He eventually owned and maintained a small cab service in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and later retired to Alabama to take care of his mother. He was a pillar of our family, so it was very tough losing him in 2004.

“Even though he didn’t die as many of the 22 veterans who commit suicide daily, his service taught me a great respect for those who do serve this country. I have many other family members as well as friends that have served in the U.S Marines, Army, Navy or Air Force. In many of them, I see that strong work ethic that my grandfather had. I wanted to honor their service and ensure they will receive the support they need.”

Today, as we observe World Mental Health Day, I want to thank Ajene for sharing his story with me. I join him in honoring Samuel Oden’s service, work ethic and compassion. I’ve been thinking of him and other veterans as I do my daily pushups.

Let’s hope the awareness we are raising around mental health translates into action and understanding and so that anyone who is struggling feels confident enough to seek the support they may need, no matter who they are.