September 12th is National R U OK Day. This day was started as a way to help get conversations started about Mental Illness. R U OK Day aims to empower people to ask those around them a simple question meaningfully. Are you OK?
R U OK has 3 things that they hope to achieve. These include educating people about having meaningful conversations regularly, promoting a call to action i.e. asking a meaningful question and encouraging these conversations to happen everyday. It is hoped that by setting aside one day to focus on these conversations that they will help people to feel connected to the community around them.
Each day we encounter a myriad of people, including checkout assistants, the woman sitting next to you at the bus stop or a young family sharing the park with you. We pass people who are upset and simply put our heads down, hoping that the problem with go away. A simple, are you ok, may not completely change their lives but it opens the channels of conversation that they once thought were closed. A question that quite possibly holds more weight than we give it credit for.
How many times have you answered ‘Good thanks’ when asked how you are? How many times have you asked the question yourself, expecting no more than a good thanks? It is through this social nicety, of not wanting to bother anyone with your worries, that meaningful conversations become stunted. The words are nothing more than a time filler, something that should be said, instead of wanted to be said.
There appears to be a sense of martyrdom, a feeling that unless you take on life with a stiff upper lip, you are somehow failing. We begin to hide our true feelings not just from the outside world, but from those who love us. It is a slippery slope, one that I believe can be halted by someone taking the time to listen when they ask a question, instead of pre-empting a positive response.
It’s my belief that this level of social etiquette is what allows stigma to continually thrive. While I am not saying that you must tell your story to everyone who asks, I simply ask that you tell someone. I ask that you listen to the answer when you take the time to ask if someone is OK.
Someone could be waiting for that one person to listen. I simply ask that you be prepared to be that person.
Today, September 12th, and every day, take the time to ask R U OK? It might just save a life.