It is estimated that 65,000 Australians make a suicide attempt each year, with an average of 2,320 people suiciding every year. Furthermore, 45% of Australians will experience mental illness in their lifetime, while 20% are affected every year…

September 8th is R U OK Day in Australia. R U OK? Was founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009 and works collaboratively with experts in suicide prevention and mental illness, as well as government departments, corporate leaders, teachers, universities, students and community groups. Its activities also align with the Australian Government’s LIFE Framework.

Why it’s important
One of the most significant theories as to why people choose to take their own lives is put forward by Dr Thomas Joiner. Following his fathers death, Thomas has dedicated his research to try and answer that question “Why?” His theory tries to answer the question by describing three forces at play in someone at risk:

  1. The person thinks they’re a burden on others
  2. The person feels that they can withstand a high degree of pain
  3. The person doesn’t feel connected to others.

These feelings of a lack of connection and lack of belonging are preventable. By taking the time to ask “Are you ok?” and listening, we can help people struggling with life feel connected long before they even think about suicide. Connecting regularly and meaningfully is one thing that we can all do on a daily basis that could make the world of difference to anyone who might be struggling.

A new national survey has revealed that Australians spend 8x more time per week on their digital devices than they do engaging with family and friends.The suicide prevention charity has also revealed that around half of Australians spend two hours or less of their weekly downtime connecting with the people who matter to them.

R U OK? Board Director and Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute, Professor Helen Christensen, said finding time in our busy schedules for relationships is critical:

“Connecting with people we care about is so important for maintaining good mental health. We know that strong and caring connections with friends and family provide a vital safety net to help people cope with the challenging moments in life,” Helen said. “Conversely, withdrawing from social engagement is often a sign of poor mental health and this is the time when loved ones need to stay connected, no matter how difficult it may be.”

Suicide prevention is not only a sensitive topic but is an enormously complex challenge the world over. It may not always be comfortable to discuss mental health but what we must remember is that there is power in that simplest of questions – “Are you ok?”

Resources:
https://www.ruok.org.au/
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-11/australians-spend-46-hours-per-week-with-screens-six-with-family/7718930