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).
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.
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
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