For the past decade and a half, suicide in the Veteran Community has skyrocketed...
Let me say this up front: I want to prevent Veteran suicides as much as anyone. It’s a huge reason why this show exists.
But I won’t do 22 pushups. I won’t wear tee shirts or clothing with the number 22 on it, and I don’t want anything to do with events that incorporate the number 22.
That’s because I believe that it contributes to the problem.
I posted about this last week on Instagram and most people understood where I was coming from.
But I also got people accusing me of not talking about suicide because it makes me “uncomfortable.” I also had people telling me that “no one will commit suicide because of a number.”
That’s not how it works.
Social proof is well studied. It states that when a group of people shares similarities with each other, those people are likely to mimic each other.
This concept has been used to great effect by marketers, psychologists, and the United States Military.
Social proof has also been shown to be linked to the increased likelihood of suicide.
Cialdini’s book is considered the seminal book on human persuasion. There is also other research to suggest a link between publicizing suicides and suicide rates.
Look, contrary to popular opinion, science never proves anything. Especially in social science, where variables are often questionable, statistical analyses can only tell us so much.
This has never been directly studied in terms of the Veteran Community, but the potential link has been shown over and over again in the civilian population.
So here’s my point: if there’s even a possibility that plastering the numer “22” everywhere could increase the likelihood that one of our brothers or sisters in arms would commit suicide, why would we continue to do it?
Does that mean we should turn our back on the issue? Absolutely not.
We still need to fight suicide, but we should do it by inspiring and teaching Veterans to truly live.
The more we hear about Veterans who are building businesses, becoming leaders in their communities, and running for office, the more we will turn social proof in our favor.
The more Veterans charities that switch their focus from creating “awareness” to building comradery, civic responsibility, leadership, and skillsets in our community, the more we will benefit.
No one kills themselves just because they heard someone else do it. There are many factors that go into that decision. But having it plastered everywhere makes it more of a possibility.
You are free to have your own opinions. What I’ve done here is present evidence for you to evaluate. I am not the lord and keeper of the Veteran Community.
But I do love this community with all of my heart, and for that reason, I will not be propagating the number 22 for any reason.
Most famously, this link was discussed in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence.