Why the name "22KILL"?
First of all, let's start with the easy part: "22". In 2012, the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) released a data report for suicides among veterans and active military members. The total numbers indicated that an average of 22 die by suicide every day. 22KILL was started in 2013 with a mission to raise awareness to this number.
We are well aware that there are debates about the accuracy of this number, and there is certainly validity to the arguements. A recent report from 2018 with more accurate data shows that the average is actually 19.8.
The mission remains the same. 22 was simply a number that our mission was based upon. It has become part of our brand, and we continue to use that number to raise awareness to the fact that a problem exists. The fact is that suicide and PTS are not just veteran issues. The harsh reality is that there are over 120 suicides per day in the U.S., and we as Americans need to educate ourselves and be willing to open ourselves up to address the issues.
But why "KILL"?
We get it. "Kill" is a harsh word; abrasive, insensitive, however you want to look at it. So is the word "suicide". The word and the act itself has negative connotations, and most don't want to talk about it, or even say the word. It's a scary subject. To many of us, it's just a word, until it affects you personally.
"22KILL" is meant to grab people's attention, to open up the conversation and bring people to talk about a subject that is so hard for many of us to talk about. Solving a problem begins with awareness, and awareness begins with being comfortable enough to discuss the problem.
What is the meaning of the gas mask?
In our society, and especially in military culture, we've become accustomed to wearing a "mask". It's ingrained in us the idea that showing emotions like pain, fear, and despair are signs of weakness. In reality, emotions – whether positive or negative – are what make us human.
We want a society where people feel comfortable enough to lift these masks, and be able to express themselves without the fear of being judged. We need to understand that these emotions are natural. Ignoring these feelings – or pretending to – deprives us of our humanity. We are all complex beings who walk very different paths in life; experiencing various traumas and triumphs. We may not always understand each other, but until we learn to take off these masks, we never will. This is one of the meanings behind the 22KILL gas mask.
It also represents the indiscriminate nature of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress. It can affect anyone regardless of race, religion, age, gender, social status, etc. PTS is a human issue, and it's not just a "war" term. "Post Traumatic Stress" simply describes an emotional state of mind that can stem from any traumatic life experience, and it is more common than some people believe. Everyone experiences some form of trauma throughout their life, but most are unaware of the effects that these events can have on their mental state
Finally, the gas mask represents the statistic itself; the "22" who we lose every day, and our mission to raise awareness not only to a number, but to the people associated with that number. Behind the "mask" of this number, there is an individual – a human being – who took their own life. More than that, there are the family and friends, and the community as a whole who are affected in some capacity.
So, what does the gas mask represent? The short answer, in one word, is "unmasking".