22 flowers floating in fountain represent military lives lost to suicide every day

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Twenty-two.

That's how many soldiers and military veterans take their own life every day in the United States, the Department of Veterans Affairs found.

And on Wednesday, 22 lotus flowers were set afloat in the Hennepin County Government Center fountain, the county's Facebook page says.

It's part of The 8030 Project (an estimated 8,030 veterans take their own lives each year) – a participatory public art project founded by Mara Pelecis that aims to raise awareness of these suicides, according to Forecast Public Art.

“Suicide is often considered a personal conflict,” Pelecis says on The 8030 Project website. "Yet with numbers such as this, it is clearly beyond the scope of an individual problem — it is a public health and policy issue that affects our entire nation.”

The flowers are a preview for a large-scale art exhibit that will open at the Hennepin Gallery inside the Government Center next month, the project's website says. The exhibit will feature images of 22 everyday objects used to represent the veteran lives lost to suicide, along with the stories behind the objects.

The project is inviting people to create a local memorial to be included in the exhibit.

Those interested in participating are asked to choose 22 items they feel represent the lives of soldiers and veterans – some are as simple as 22 candles on a cake or 22 stones in a circle – and email a photo of the objects to 8030project@gmail.com.

The images submitted through Aug. 30 will be included in the first month of the exhibit at the Hennepin Gallery, while those submitted through Sept. 30 will be added to the exhibit in early October, 8030 notes.

The exhibit will open Sept. 4 and run through Oct. 27.

More on military suicides

Since the VA report was published in 2013, additional reports have looked at military suicides. Here’s some of what’s been found.

  • The Washington Post provided some “missing context” for the 22 veterans a day figure.
  • PBS’ Frontline reported earlier this year on a study by JAMA Psychiatry, which found most soldiers who die by suicide were never deployed.
  • Another recent study, this one by the Annals of Epidemiology, looked at suicide among the 1.3 million who were on active duty during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, finding veterans “exhibit significantly higher suicide risk compared with the U.S. general population. However, deployment to the Iraq or Afghanistan war, by itself, was not associated with the excess suicide risk.”

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