Friday, September 21, 2012

R U OK Day and suicide

“A conversation could change a life.” – R U OK? Day

Last Thursday (13th September) was the fourth annual R U OK? Day. Launched in 2009, the day aims to reduce social isolation and the incidence of suicide in our society. Held nationally on the second Thursday in September, R U OK? Day was the brainchild of the late marketing executive Gavin Larkin (1968-2011) who sadly died of cancer only two short years after launching R U OK? Day and television producer Janina Nearn.

In 1995 Gavin’s father committed suicide; it had a devastating effect on his family and everyone who knew him. A highly intelligent, successful businessman, Barry had a wife and three sons and everything to live for.

Years later, Gavin found himself heading into the darkness that is depression. Outwardly successful with family, friends and a thriving career, he was confused as to why he felt so empty inside. At a friend’s suggestion he attended a self-improvement communications course and found it very beneficial. Part of the course was to develop a project that inspired him and also benefited his community. Gavin chose suicide prevention.

A great many people are directly affected by suicide through the death of a family member, friend or acquaintance. They are left shattered, bewildered and wondering what went wrong and what they could have done to help that person. You cannot step into someone else’s mind and see what is going on but you can reach out and ask them how they are going? Are they okay?

Most people don’t openly share their feelings, particularly if they’re struggling. A friend or acquaintance asking a well-timed question such as “Are you okay?” can make all the difference.
Life is constantly changing; it is filled with emotional ups and downs. These ups and downs are a normal part of everyone’s life no matter what age we are or who we are. We rile against the down times and can sometimes feel as though we are not normal, that we are the only person who isn’t coping and that these dark feelings and thoughts will go on forever. They don’t.

When life or circumstances seem overwhelming it can be helpful to remind yourself that any challenge no matter how big or difficult it may seem, can be broken into tiny manageable sections and tackled one step at a time or even one hour at a time.

R U OK? Day is a brilliant marketing campaign and an excellent way to raise the public’s awareness for suicide prevention and reducing social isolation but don’t just wait for that 2nd Thursday in September. By regularly reaching out to one another and having open and honest conversations, we can all help build a more connected community and reduce our country’s suicide rate.

Suicide is an uncomfortable and difficult topic and one that I feel strongly about. I really struggled to write about it and somewhat ironically I found myself in a ball of anxiety, wondering if my “R U OK? Day” column was in fact, okay?

The best thing we can all do, is regularly talk to the people we care about - regardless of whether they are at risk - because connection is good for us all. For people who are struggling with their emotions and feel unable or unwilling to talk with their family or friends, sometimes talking with a stranger such as a trained counselor can be very beneficial.

For help or information for young people aged between 5 and 25 visit or call Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800. For adults check out or call Lifeline on 131 114.

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