Just three little words could save someone's life and no they aren't 'I love you'. Although that would be great also but I am actually talking about asking someone, 'Are you ok'? Or in this case, R U Ok? Seems simple doesn't it, however, we get so caught up in our own lives that it's easy to forget to ask.
Image is from the R U Ok? Facebook page
Did you know that every day six people in Australia take their own life? Six! This is shocking and extremely sad and this is why the founder of the R U Ok? Day foundation, (who sadly passed away from cancer in 2011) Gavin Larkin came up with this day. A day to remind everyone to think about those around them, to think about if they have been down or acting differently and asking them how they are.
It's a day to remind us to check up with those around us, to start a conversation and to remember to ask, R U Ok? This could be enough to save that person's life! Perhaps just knowing that somebody cares enough to ask will stop this person from doing the unthinkable.
Gavin's father took his own life and Gavin himself had suffered from depression so, he knew all too well the heartache, loss and pain that this causes. He felt that something needed to be done to remind all of us that we need to have more conversations and support the well being of our fellow man. This is how he came up with R U Ok? Day. Running now since 2009 this day is held annually in the middle of September each year. This year it is to be held on Thursday 12th September which will mark its fifth year.
Many supporters and celebrities support this cause, such as Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts and Wendell Sailor. They have all made public campaigns in the support of this day, Wendell Sailor himself has suffered from depression. He made a stand because he wanted everyone to know that anyone can suffer from depression no matter who they are or their sex, weight, height and age. He wanted to highlight the need for us to look out for others and ask how they are doing before they get too low, before it is too late.
You don't need a medical degree or to be an expert to initiate a conversation that could make a person feel valued and important. We should be more open about our feelings especially with those we really care about. Often talking things through with someone who is a great listener and is non judgemental can make a huge difference. Remember to also follow up with that person later on.
You don't have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgement and take the time to follow up with them.
Below are some simple steps to start a conversation. This is taken from the R U Ok Day? Website:
1. Ask R U OK?
Start a general conversation; preferably somewhere private.
Break the ice with a joke.
Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
Ask open–ended questions.
'What's been happening? How are you going?'
'I've noticed that... What's going on for you at the moment?'
'You don't seem like yourself and I'm wondering are you ok? Is there anything that's contributing?'
2. Listen without judgement
Guide the conversation with caring questions and give them time to reply.
Don't rush to solve problems for them.
Help them understand that solutions are available when they're ready to start exploring these.
'How has that made you feel?'
'How long have you felt this way?'
'What do you think caused this reaction?'
3. Encourage action
Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do
Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor
If they're unsure about where to go to for help, help them to contact a local doctor or the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
'What do you think might help your situation?'
'Have you considered making an appointment with your doctor?'
'Would you like me to make an appointment or come with you?'
4. Follow up
Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they're desperate, follow up sooner.
Ask if they've managed to take that first step and see someone
If they didn't find this experience helpful, urge them to try a different professional because there's someone out there who can help them.
'How are things going? Did you speak with your doctor?'
'What did they suggest? What did you think of their advice?'
'You've had a busy time. Would you like me to make the appointment?'
Meaningful conversations and a sense of connection are what make us feel valued and supported. The R U OK? Foundation hopes to empower and encourage people to make a difference to the significant and devastating issue of suicide in Australia. On Thursday, 12th September ask the question and help make every conversation count.