Are they really okay?

R U OK? Day is a day to raise awareness around suicide prevention and to encourage people to stay connected to those around them. Now more than ever, with the ongoing nature of Covid-19 and lockdowns and restrictions around Australia, it is important that we as a community reach out to our friends, family, colleagues and even neighbours to ask “R U OK?”. This year, R U OK? Day falls on Thursday 9 September, and this year’s theme is “Are they really OK? Ask them today.”

Devastatingly, suicide is still prevalent in our society today. Every day in Australia, eight people will take their own life (ABS, 2020), and for every one of these eight people, it is estimated that another 30 will have attempted to take their life (ABS, 2020). Suicide doesn’t just affect the life of the individual who has chosen to take their own life, but all those around them. A study conducted by Suicide Prevention Australia has found that 89% of Australians know someone who has made a suicide attempt. While we are making leaps and bounds in raising awareness around suicide prevention and how we can support each other, unfortunately, these statistics continue to be shockingly too high.

Are they really okay?

We wear many different hats when it comes to our daily lives, whether it is as a parent, partner, friend, employee, manager or carer. With these different hats, comes unique compounding factors, that can take a toll on our wellbeing. Adding in the Covid-19 pandemic which has affected how we live our “normal” lives, it is a lot to cope with.

Often, we don’t like to admit when things aren’t going well. We tend to mask the signs that might indicate we are not travelling so well, such as working longer hours, increasing our caffeine or alcohol intake or even just making excuses for changes in behaviour. This makes it tricker for those around us to identify when we may be struggling to cope. With all that is going on in the world right now, the chances are that someone close to you, is experiencing difficulties coping, whether they are telling you or not, is high.

This year’s theme for R U OK? Day is about identifying and asking yourself “Do I know how the people in my world are really going?”. It is about spotting the early warning signs that someone isn’t doing so well and learning about what those “masked signs” may also be.

Look towards the people in your world, and ask yourself: who is struggling right now? Who has a lot on their plate?

The power of a conversation

We are sure you have heard this phrase countless times: humans are social creatures and thrive on connection with others. It is a fact that conversations and connections are a crucial part of our lives. So we are urging you to have regular conversations with the people in your world, not just on R U OK? Day, and ask how they are doing, show them you are really listening and peel back those masked layers. Don’t wait until they are showing deep signs of physical distress.

If they say they’re fine, acknowledge they have a lot on their plate right now, and let them know you’ll be checking in on them regularly, as you are concerned about them. Above all else, never stop asking!

You have the power to change a life.