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14/09/2011 / melgardener

R U OK?

Thursday 15th September is R U OK Day? (www.ruokday.com.au). Originally started in 2009, R U OK Day “is a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones”.

The idea is that we so often ask people how they are but either we don’t listen to the answer or it’s clear that we are only making small talk rather than truly expecting an honest and in-depth answer. So, on Thursday 15th September, why not ask someone (or many people) who are close to you if they are OK? Then, stop. And really listen to their answer.

I feel very lucky that I have not been personally affected by suicide, nor have I ever contemplated suicide, although I have certainly struggled with stress and feeling overwhelmed with not coping. At my lowest ebb, I felt trapped in a hole with no way out. All I could see were the walls of the hole around me and I could not envisage any future that did not involve being in that hole.

I find it very interesting that those things we so often focus on in our lives – career, money, status – become completely irrelevant when our world falls apart. Sometimes these things can actually contribute to feelings of isolation, stress and the pressure to maintain what you’ve built – and, so, become part of the problem.

We also live in a fast-paced, frantic world where longer, more meaningful interactions are not always possible and we so often sacrifice a good chin-wag because it doesn’t feel as though we can make the time. But I strongly believe that, as a society, it is our connections and our relationships that will help us through troubled times and provide the support we need, when we need it.

At times, we all have trouble asking for help – we don’t want to be seen as weak, or not coping. But sometimes, having the right person ask, at the right time, if we are okay gives us permission to admit that maybe we are not. And, more often than not, in sharing your fears or stress or need for help, you discover that you are not alone.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how to approach a friend or a colleague if you are concerned for them – maybe you don’t want to appear nosey or maybe you think you’ll make things worse? Often, we simply don’t know what to say.

The truth is, you don’t really have to say much – the idea is to get them talking. An offer of coffee or lunch might be just the opening you need to bring down the walls and get them to open up. Remember, you are offering support, not solutions, so ask plenty of open ended questions then zip
it and let them talk. Lots of active listening signals – eye contact, verbal signals (mmm hmmm) and repeating back – will encourage them to keep going.

There are some fabulous community organisations that offer support and advice. Here are the details – do not hesitate to ring if you are
concerned for another, or feeling as though you might like to speak to someone.

Lifeline 13 11 44

Beyond Blue 1300 22 46 36

So, now it’s my turn. Are you OK? I mean, really

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Elephant's Child / Sep 16 2011 3:09 pm

    Thank you. The question is a good starting point – but that is all it is. This post really hits the mark for me.

    • melgardener / Sep 16 2011 6:55 pm

      Yes, I agree. Asking the question is only the first step. Thanks for dropping by.

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