Are you OK? It’s a question that is so simple but is often so difficult to say. If I think deeply about the resistance surrounding this phrase it becomes clear to me that the question is almost always a direct reaction to something that is seen within the face of anther person. Some thing we see compels us to ask and poke our nose into the private world of someone else who is suffering on some level such that we can see it!
If I see someone and that someone looks distressed, distant, anxious or fearful I will pick up on that body language and sometimes ask the question. I do this knowing that I may get the brush off but at times I don’t. When I don’t get the brush off from the question Are you ok? (My interpretation is usually ..Is everything ok?) I sort of brace myself for what’s to come.
I know that often being asked the question R U OK ? is the first time the person has had to address whatever is troubling them, or perhaps it is the first time the person has been challenged to admit that something really is troubling them, or perhaps it is the first time they have felt a genuine interest and a moment of trust that allows them to reveal whatever it is that is troubling them.
Regardless of the reasons for the question the direct communication itself is a life line for so many. For me it has helped me get through tough days when loaded down with little children and the responsibility of juggling all the balls was overwhelming me and no-one in my immediate world seemed to see my state of confusion, trouble or exhaustion.
Usually, it’s someone slightly removed from my inner circle that asks the question and I’ve found that the courage of that question has on a given day helped me get through a tough time. In addition many good and ongoing friendships have started from a known but sort of outsider who had the courage to ask Are you ok?
I’m thinking about this today off the back of a new campaign launched last week by Wendall Sailor, Rugby player, suicide prevention campaigner for men and ambassador for the R U OK? Foundation which is intent on making this question normal amongst men and encouraging them to talk to each other about what is troubling them, how they feel and hopefully to help prevent suicide in FIFO workers.
The troubling reality is that as reported on the LIFELINE website today stats indicate that suicide is the LEADING CAUSE of death in Australia for men under 44 and women under 34. In addition, men in Australia are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
This is a crisis not only for FIFO workers but for all Australians men and women.
R U OK? is running a national R U OK? day on THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 21 to raise awareness around issues of men speaking out and suicide prevention. What can we do to change the conversation and get men talking about what is important to them? Can you organize a something, a coffee, an event, a talk fest, a free lunch, a comic look at the issue for R U OK? day?
Perhaps we can all commit to ask someone each day are you OK? Perhaps we can change a conversation in Australia around men and self expression – from one that looks something like “Australian men don’t talk about their feelings, issues or problems” and create a new one that looks something like…
“Aussie men talk about their feelings – that’s a good thing for them and their families”.
Men who begin to talk are often afraid of feelings they are unfamiliar with. They need lots of support, time, love and care but with time men who express their feelings become more fulfilled as individuals, as partners, as fathers, as workers and as friends.
Have you begun to ask R U OK? Can you get the conversation started in your family, community, workplace or industry that shifts a story men have accepted for generations and helps to create a new, kind of Aussie man who talks freely about what is important to him? Let me know what has worked for you and your nearest and dearest.