What is R U OK? Day?
It is a day for all Australians (and personally, people world over) to connect with others and check how they are going. In other words, it is to try and help with small problems and thereby prevent something bigger. Like suicide.
R U OK? Day is a suicide prevention day.
It was founded by Gavin Larkin whose own father lost his battle with depression. A secret he kept hidden from family and friends and isolated himself to the point where he eventually took his life. Gavin Larkin though this project hopes that other people ask people they care about one important question: “Are you okay?”
It is a paradox that in this day and age where we can virtually connect with people from all corners of the world, we still fail to connect with friends and family and neighbours on a personal and real level. And sometimes, this isolation can play a big part in someone developing a mental health problem like depression.
On this day (and on others), I would like to take on the message from the founder and encourage you all to ask at least one person in your lives if they are okay. And don’t just leave it at that. Listen to them actively. Ask open-ended questions. Try not to provide platitudes (e.g. “I know everything will be okay“) or be judgemental. Most importantly, if a person discloses they are suicidal, do not ignore them or worse, pooh-pooh them or threaten them. Instead, once again, listen. And refer them to an appropriate service. You do not need to take responsibility for them but you can recommend they see someone. If however they have no plans, do remember to check up on them a day or two later. The R U OK? Day website gives some great communication tips as well.
Suicide is still considered a taboo subject and not openly talked about.
But it’s time we did. There is nothing scary in talking about suicide. Only if we talk about it can we become more aware in the signs and thereby help prevent it. For someone that talks about suicide and self-harm with every second client, it has become second nature and not shocking to talk about it. But sadly, the greater public still are afraid to broach the subject.
It is but a myth that if you ask someone if they are suicidal, then you are putting ideas into their heads. You have to ask direct questions. Only then do you get a direct answer.
I think Gavin Larkin has done a brilliant job of trying to promote suicide prevention awareness. On a side note, he is not okay today. I watched him on Australian Story on Monday night where I became aware that he was diagnosed with bone cancer early last year and only months later found out that his son had a brain tumour. Amidst all this, he still campaigned hard for his cause. Currently, he is in palliative care with possibly only weeks to live. It is the sad irony of his life. And yet, it makes you realise what an admirable job he has done. I tip my hat off to him.
I hope that long after he is gone, his legacy continues through the R U OK? Day project.
So go on.
Connect with a friend.
Ask them the important question.
Just as I ask you, my dear readers and friends: “Are you okay?“
[You can email me if you want to ‘talk’. On the other hand, if you are suicidal, I would recommend contacting your doctor or therapist. If you are in Australia, call Lifeline on 13 11 14]
Until next time,