Wednesday, 14 September 2011

R U OK? Day Is For Everybody

When I was first approached regarding R U OK? Day I was unsure whether I would be able to contribute something meaningful as I have to date been fortunate enough to not have such tragedy impact my life. Once I started pondering the broader concept of mental health and a person’s general happiness I realised that almost everybody is battling their own demons. People do not need to be suicidal to deserve support, sometimes it is those who seem to have no reasons for being sad that actually need the most help coping with their own emotions, because they do not know how to acknowledge them on their own.


I have seen so many people I care about affected by loss or grief or even just their own overwhelming thoughts. I have witnessed marriages of those close to me fall apart because of addictions so strong and so deceptive that there was no way back. I have seen people I love push their grief so deep down inside themselves they suffered debilitating anxiety attacks as a result. I have friends on medication for depression I was unaware they even had and in each and every circumstance I wish that I had picked up on the signs early enough to ask R U OK? The simple act of asking, of starting a conversation, may have been enough to prevent such escalation.

Thankfully, in each of these situations, there has been a happy ending of some kind, but that is not to say that in their darkest moments they did not experience feelings of great sadness and isolation. Each of these people had a need to be asked if they were OK, there is not one more deserving of support than another and not one that can say that their problem was more real.

Quite often the person you think has little to worry about is the one trying their hardest to convince you everything is fine. They may not believe that their problems warrant people’s concern and so carry it with them while it slowly eats away at them. I know this, because I am one of those people. As a result of confrontations many years ago there is a constant rift in our family that shows no signs of being repaired. It may not always be at the forefront of my mind, but there are times when it keeps me up at night, when the anger and hurt of the situation makes my want to scream until she hears me.

She is my sister, and I miss her, and I am not OK. I am hurt, angry, empty and sad. I am hurt that we cannot seem to get past what has happened and start to heal our family. I am angry that she will not admit her part and acknowledge her actions. Her total lack of ownership when choosing to simply not turn up at a recent family get-together makes me furious. I am empty for the missed milestones and family occasions that we don’t share. She has not seen Skye since she was 6 weeks old, I wish that I could share my pride as a parent with her and she could know the bright, spirited girl that is her niece and I am sad for the lack of light at the end of the tunnel.

I hold hope that things will get better, but as time passes and nothing changes, trying to stay positive impacts on other areas of my life. The frustration and anxiety that overshadows every family celebration affects everyone, we cannot enjoy these moments together without noticing her missing. We talk about it within our family, but as we all have our own sadness to deal with, it isn’t always enough. Talking to others can be difficult when you feel that they may not really be listening.

My message for R U OK? day is this, if you care enough to ask, please care enough to really listen to what is being said. You might not get the outpouring of secrets and grief you expect the first time, but if you can make yourself available, they may trust you enough to confide in their own time. I often make the fact that we have no contact a joke so as not to make people uncomfortable, if I were ever asked directly how this makes me feel, I would welcome the chance to say these things out loud, much as I welcome the chance to ask others if they are OK and have them really tell me.


I ask that if you think something is not OK with someone you care about, you should trust your instincts and ask them the question. A simple question could be enough to stop small problems becoming bigger problems. A conversation really could change a life.

R U OK? day is a national call to action to connect with people. To start a conversation. It is about listening, it is about noticing, it is about caring. It is not about having all the answers, but rather knowing where to go to access the answers should you need to.

Please support RUOK? Day on 15 September. It really is an opportunity to start a conversation and continue to make regular meaningful connections.

The following are some recommended help and information contacts:
beyondblue info line (National) - 1300 22 4636
Lifeline (National) - 13 11 14
* Just Ask Rural Mental Health Information & Referral Line (National) - 1300 13 11 14
SANE Australia Helpline (National) - 1800 187 263
Suicide Helpline - 1300 651 251
Mensline (National) - 1300 789 978
Australian Psychological Society Referral Line (National) 1800 333 497
Mental Health Information Service (NSW) - 1300 794 991
Kids Helpline (National) - 1800 551 800

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