On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: "Are you OK?".
Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.
It's so simple. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life."
A blogger friend of mine, Lori, has a mantra: Speak. It might save someone's life.
I saw a post and video on Lori's blog about R U OK?Day and thought of what she's been through. She's my age, with two young children, and lost her husband earlier this year to suicide. Lori has shared her story of her husband's suicide and the impact on her family, often in confronting detail, on her blog. The destruction is incomprehensible. It was Lori's story about suicide that made me realise the importance of reaching out to someone in need.
A couple of months ago, someone I am very close to began to go through a tough time. Maybe began is the wrong word – everything came to a head for him, I guess. He sought treatment for addiction and depression. I think I was one of the few he told. And I didn't realise how bad things had become for him until I asked how he was. The bad things he told me, and the good, have sometimes been really hard to take. It was especially hard hearing he wanted to die.
I kept listening to him, reassuring him I'd listen without judgment. I kept the conversation going, asking him if he is ok. He told me not to worry. Of course I worried. And I often felt helpless. I just wished he could feel worthy.
He is on medication now, and seems to be doing ok. But it will be a long road. He said he wouldn't have gotten through he hard times without the support he received from those close to him.
I still continue to ask how he is, every day. Because it's so important to reach out to someone in need and listen to them. While unlike Lori's situation, he isn't my husband, not even my boyfriend, I cant imagine loving someone else like I love him, and I can't imagine losing him to self destruction or suicide. If I lost him I would regret it if I did not reach out.
'Addiction', 'depression' and 'suicide' can be such dirty words, there is such a stigma - but that the cost of not reaching out when you know someone is in trouble could be catastrophic. You don't have to know what to say, just listen without judgment. People need to know they're worthy and loved, that someone is there to listen to them, and that someone is willing to ask whether they're ok.
PS: if you are providing support to someone in need, I strongly recommend talking to someone - a trusted friend, a counsellor or one of the services listed below - to ensure you are supported too.
National help lines and centres
Lifeline - 24/7 telephone counselling service - 13 11 14 -
Suicide Callback service - 1300 659 467
MensLine National - 24/7 support for men dealing with relationship and family issues
- 1300 78 99 78
Kids Helpline - 24/7 telephone and online counselling for young people 5–25 years
- 1800 55 1800
Reach Out! - Online crisis and mental health information for young people
SuicideLine Victoria - 24/7 telephone counselling for people at risk of suicide, carers and bereaved - 1300 651 251
Helplines and Information
SANE Australia Helpline - Mental health information, weekdays 9am–5pm
- 1800 187 263
headspace - Mental health services and support for young people 12–25 years
beyondblue Info Line - Information about depression, anxiety and related disorders
- 1300 224 636
Black Dog Institute - Information about depression and bipolar disorder