This September 11th, R U OK? Day enters its 6th consecutive year of starting conversations about mental health and suicide prevention. The event, which coincides with the United Nations World Suicide Prevention Day, aims to remind us all to reach out to our family, friends and colleagues to pose the seemingly simplest of questions, but also the one that can be the most difficult to ask: Are you okay? Asking this question with meaning and purpose gives people a chance to talk about issues and feelings that may have been plaguing them for some time. A conversation can mean the difference between someone seeking help or choosing to stay silent until they feel they can no longer cope. It doesn’t necessarily have to be face-to-face, either – picking up the phone, sending a text, chatting online – these can all be a step in the right direction.
What Do They Stand For?
R U OK? is a non-profit organisation whose primary purpose is suicide prevention. Started by two Australians in 2009, it is now a successful fundraising campaign that attracts high-profile support and media attention.
R U OK? also offers practical support the following advice to those who aren’t quite sure how to reach out:
“You don’t have to be an expert to have a conversation with someone who isn’t okay. Take the time to listen and not judge them. If they need professional help, show them support and help them find it. Make sure you follow up with them.”
- ASSESS the risk of suicide or harm.
- LISTEN non-judgmentally.
- GIVE reassurance and information.
- ENCOURAGE professional help.
- ENCOURAGE self-help.
The key message for those wanting to reach out is to really take the time to listen and to revisit the conversation if the person wasn’t okay – your conversation starter could be a catalyst for change and help being sought.
Why Someone Might Need Your Help
Over the course of their lifetime, more than 2.1 million Australians over the age of 16 have given serious thought to suicide, with half a million making suicide attempts. Over 2,500 take their lives each year. These are staggering numbers, and they drive home the probability that someone you know has been in this situation.
R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis tells us “while we cannot bring back the people we’ve lost to suicide, we can help each other through life’s difficult times and do this long before someone even thinks about taking their own life. I urge everyone to take the time to start a conversation and really listen to what a mate has to say.”
Even if we’re not thinking about suicide, sustained feelings of isolation can lead to mental health problems down the track. Staying connected is a wonderful antidote for loneliness, which can sometimes get the better of us. And it’s the conversation that matters, not your level of professional knowledge.
“We don’t have to have the answers or be experts if our friends need our help. Instead, we can ask them how they’re going on a regular basis and really listen to what they’re going through,” says Ms. Lewis.
The aim in 2014 is to sign up 23,000 Australians as Conversation Mates. The hope is that everyone in the community can be a part of this effort and help to create a world where everyone is connected and protected from suicide. By committing to the campaign, you’ll affirm your intention to reach out to someone on September 11th. Since R U OK? Day gains in momentum year on year, they should have little trouble reaching their desired number of Conversation Mates – but it’s going to take a lot more of us starting conversations to really make a difference. Any day is a good day to ask: are you okay?
The following organisations work tirelessly to provide people experiencing anxiety and depression with qualified counselling. You can remain completely anonymous if you wish.
Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14
Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
SANE: 1800 18 7263
Kids Health Line: 1800 55 1800
Mensline: 1300 78 99 78
Mental Health Emergencies
Mental health crisis and suicide risk: Call triple zero (000) or present to an emergency department.