17 Sep R U OK? and what this day really means
R U OK day has come and gone for another year – a campaign that has become one of the most recognised Australian calendar days to date, but do you know why it’s so important? Do you know why we need to think about the concept all year round?
It’s about creating awareness that a conversation could change a life. The day encourages a Conversation Movement that equips Australians with the resources and confidence to support those struggling with life.
In 1995, Barry Larkin was far from OK. His suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions. So in 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families from the pain his endured.
“Are you OK?”
He decided to collaborate with Janina Nearn on a documentary to raise awareness and the team quickly realised the documentary alone wouldn’t be enough to spread the message, so R U OK? was born.
This message shouldn’t just be reserved for one day a year, however this national day is to remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, “Are you OK?” if someone in your world is struggling with life’s rollercoaster of emotions.
The next step can be a little harder though. It’s important to know that you don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. Let the person know you are there for them and available to listen. Acknowledge what they are feeling and ask them what you can do to help.
You could offer support by:
- trying small actions first, such as going for a walk or visiting a friend together and encouraging other people in your lives to do so too
- encouraging them to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise
- discouraging them from numbing emotions with alcohol or drugs
- offering practical support, such as doing their shopping or cooking meals
- providing information, such as books to read or podcasts to listen to in their own time
- offering to make an appointment with a doctor or mental health professional on their behalf, and offering to take them
- encouraging them to seek help immediately if they are at risk of suicide or self-harm
It is also important to realise that before you can look out for others, you need to be in the right headspace yourself. Or if you don’t think you’re the right person to have the conversation, reach out to someone else in their support network who could talk to them. If you feel like you know someone who isn’t acting like themselves or there’s something going on in their life, trust your gut instinct and take the time to check in with them. That conversation could change, or even save, their life