Are you OK?

Carly Findlay
Summary 
Thursday is R U OK? Day. It aims to prevent suicide. People are encouraged to talk to people they care about. It is important that little problems do not turn into big problems. A friend of mine lost her husband this year to suicide. She encourages people to talk to each other. I also have another friend who has had a hard time. I think I was one of the few people he talked to about it. It is really important for people to know that we care about them. There are also many support agencies that can help.
Posted by: 
Carly Findlay on 13/09/2011
man sitting at cafe
man_sitting_cafe

Encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about

This Thursday is R U OK? Day. It's a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide. It encourages Australians to connect with someone they care about. By talking, it is hoped that we can help stop little problems turning into big ones.

Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illness. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love. The organisers of R U OK? Day say that in the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life. You can find more information on the R U OK? Website (opens new window).

Reaching out

A friend of mine has a mantra: speak. It might save someone's life. Lori recently posted a blog about R U OK? Day. She has been through a lot. She is young and has two children. She lost her husband earlier this year to suicide. Lori has shared her story of her husband's suicide and the impact on her family in confronting detail on her blog. The destruction is incomprehensible. It was Lori's story that made me realise the importance of reaching out to someone in need.

A couple of months ago, someone I am very close to began to go through a tough time. Maybe "began" is the wrong word. Everything came to a head for him. He sought treatment for addiction and depression. I think I was one of the few he told. And I didn't realise how bad things had become for him until I asked how he was. The things he told me have sometimes been really hard to take. It was especially hard hearing he wanted to die.

Without judgment

I kept listening to him. I reassured him that I would listen without judgment. I kept the conversation going, asking him if he is OK. He told me not to worry. But of course I worried. And I often felt helpless. I just wished he could feel worthy.

He is on medication now. He seems to be doing OK. But it will be a long road. He said he wouldn't have gotten through the hard times without the support he received from those close to him.

I still continue to ask every day how he is. It is so important to reach out to someone in need and listen to them. Unlike Lori's situation, he isn't my husband or boyfriend. But I can't imagine losing him.

Worthy and loved

Many people do not like to talk about topics like depression and suicide. They can make us feel uncomfortable. But the cost of not reaching out to someone could be catastrophic. You don't have to know what to say. You just have to listen without judgment. People need to know they are worthy and loved. They need to know that someone is there to listen to them. They need to know that someone is willing to ask whether they are OK.

And if you are providing support to someone in need, I strongly recommend talking to someone yourself. It could be a trusted friend, a counsellor or one of the services listed below. It will help make sure you are supported, too.

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed.

Lifeline - 24 hour telephone counselling - 131 114

Kids Helpline - under 18 years of age - 1800 551 800

Just Ask - rural mental health information - 1300 131 114

Men's Line Australia - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 789 978

Salvation Army - 24 hour telephone counselling - 1300 363 622

ReachOut! - website for young people (opens new window)

SANE Helpline - mental illness information, support and referral - 1800 187 263

beyondblue Information Line - information about depression, anxiety and related substance abuse disorders, treatments and help - 1300 224 636

Readers comments (2)

Great story Carly. Yes very important to talk. I believe talk to anyone or everyone who will listen - we all need to speak with others.

When down the street I kinda have a smiley face people tell me and I have started smiling at everyone. I try and joke with the girls at the supermarket. I have to get others to help me get things off shelves as I am in a wheelchair. I've made many friends down the street and often my quick trip to the shops takes a few hours as I speak to many people.

Many seniors are responding to a smile and I guess I am probably the only person they will speak to that day or that week.

I wish it were otherwise.

We need more Community Spirit and gatherings and entertainment in public places.

Hi

I love it when people smile at me down the shops Heather. You are totally right. it is one of those selfless acts that which people don't realise the huge impact it can have on a person.

I have had chronic depression since I was in my 20s, largely genetic as my father died from mental illness and my mother was very depressed all throughout my childhood.

it is soooo important not to judge people because they have ANY sort of mental illness, and often you will find that their illness will improve immensely when people take the time to get to know them, and encourage them to speak. Something I have not had a problem with. I also lend a helping ear to friends who I am concerned about, as I know the signs all too well.

So it feels good to know that I can have an impact on others too, by trying to encourage them to venture out of their comfort zone, or get out in the sunshine, too boost their self esteem and motivation.

Over the years many people have been shocked to learn that I have depression, they say, but you don't act like you are depressed. it is true that I am very outgoing when I am in the right environment.

I was told once that there are two main types of depression, 1) which is the chemical imbalance of the brain, and 2) environmentally caused. Well I kind of fall into both categories, but more so the environmental influences.

so when someone like yourself Heather, smiles at complete strangers, never underestimate how therapeutic that can be.

So thank you.

Kindest Regards
Pauline

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