Look past the smile and question, R U OK?

As a journalist you quickly learn that everybody has a story to tell. 

But dig a little deeper and you discover so many of these people are fighting battles nobody knows about. 

R U OK Day yesterday aimed to spread its vision of a world where everybody is connected and protected from suicide and depression. 

The national awareness day was a reminder to do the small things, because sometimes it is these little gestures that can go a long way towards offering a light in a dark world. 

Ask people if they are okay, listen with an open mind, encourage them to take action and check in with them again. 

These steps are ways to reinforce to those battling that they are not alone in their struggle. 

And sometimes it could just be that inquiring mind which looks past someone’s smile or asks that next question, “Are you really okay?”, which could save a life. 

Conversation is a crucial factor in the battle against suicide, but has been treated as a taboo topic for so long. 

This is only covering up an enormously complex and sensitive issue that will not go away unless we respond proactively. 

I remember one of my first projects as a junior journalist almost three years ago was to interview a grieving mother whose two sons had died by suicide.

Her words have stayed with me ever since.

“Nobody should ever have to walk alone,” she said. 

“Everybody needs to explore grief at some point in their lives and we need to reach out to one another.”

Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.

And for every death by suicide, it is estimated as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives - this is approximately 65,300 suicide attempts each year, according to research from Lifeline. 

While these statistics are frightening, its purpose is not to scare you, but to make you realise the extent of the issue and to spread the message that fighting to reduce these figures is something we can all achieve if we work together. 

So go out and ask the question, “Are you okay?”- but don’t just ask it today, or tomorrow or the day after - ask it constantly, think about the issue and understand the warning signs.

  • If you, or someone you know, needs help phone Lifeline on 13 14 11