Content Warning: This blog discusses mental health and suicide
After the suicide of his father in 1995, Gavin Larkin chose to champion the question to both honour his father’s memory and protect others from the pain his family endured. R U OK Day is an annual event that aims to spread awareness about suicide and encourage Australians to connect with those around them to start important conversations about mental health. Even after his death in 2011, Gavin’s legacy has endured, and R U OK Day has become one of the largest awareness campaigns in Australia.
Signs to look out for
It’s important to know the signs so you can help yourself or a loved one get the support they need. Some signs include mood swings, social withdrawal, losing interest in things they care about, unable to concentrate, reckless behaviour or changes in their sleep patterns.
You can provide support and encourage people to seek help earlier by being a source of comfort and communication for those going through difficult times.
How to ask
If you believe someone you know isn’t acting like their usual selves, trust your gut and ask them “Are you okay?”. Be relaxed and help them open up by asking questions such as “How are you going?” or “I’ve noticed you’re not quite yourself, what’s happening?”.
Before the conversation make sure that you’re prepared for their response, you can do this by asking yourself a few questions first:
- Are you in a good headspace
- Are you willing to listen
- Have you put enough time aside
- Is this the time and place for the conversation
What if they aren’t okay?
R U OK Day is not only about asking a question, it’s also about knowing what to do when the response is “I am not okay”. If you receive this response, make sure you show them support and offer practical help. Asking what they have done in the past that has helped them or asking if there is something that you can do that can support them, are great ways to encourage further action.
After the initial conversation, follow up on them regularly, and be consistent and predictable with these interactions. Encourage them to seek further professional help or explore other supports.
The R U OK website has a variety of useful tools you can use to prepare yourself for asking the question. Access these resources here.
Are you ok, is a question we need to ask every day of the year. By keeping tabs on those around you and maintaining the conversation you can make a difference. Mental health struggles can affect anyone and can happen at any time. Talk to your doctor or get in contact with a mental health provider if you have concerns with your or someone else’s mental wellbeing.
Numbers for Immediate support (24/7 Crisis Support)
13 11 14
1300 22 4636
13 92 76
1300 78 99 78