Ask R U OK? and save a life

September 14, 2017

Primary Care Connect staff raise awareness for R U OK Day last year by doing a flash mob in the Maude St Mall.

Today is the day to take the time to ask, R U OK?

In a calendar that is filled with endless days supporting countless feel-good and charitable causes, it is easy to miss an important day.

Launched in 2009, the day is a relatively new addition to the calendar, but when it comes to changing attitudes to mental health and suicide, it is too vital to ignore.

The day was started by its founder, Gavin Larkin, as a way to get something positive from a personal tragedy.

His father suicided in 1995, and after researching how to change behaviour he came up with the simple sentence, ‘‘Are you okay?’’.

The goal was to make a lasting change in our culture as to how we treat suicide and depression, and take it away from being a subject that people ignored or avoided.

Mr Larkin lost his own battle with cancer in 2011, but the day and movement he created lives on.

Across Australia, the numbers of people affected by suicide are confronting.

More than 2400 Australians die by suicide each year, and for every person that dies, an estimated 20 more attempt suicide.

Suicide numbers are highest with men between the age of 45 and 54 and over 80, but anyone of any age group is at risk.

The day is about taking difficult conversations that people often avoid and put them out in the open.

Too often we hear of families rocked by suicide who did not know of the troubles someone was going through until it was too late.

By encouraging people to ask the simple question, are you okay, the day aims at breaking down the levels of isolation that people at risk of suicide could be feeling. One simple question is not enough, and we should all remember to take the time and effort to check in with loved ones during the year, and not just on the second Thursday on September.

In Australia we are well resourced to help anyone who is having problems, with services like Lifeline providing 24/7 crisis support for those in trouble.

But the first step is for people to be open to talking about their problems, and initiatives such as RUOK? Day are key to opening up the discussion.

Anyone seeking support can phone Lifeline on 131114.

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