What I have liked about the discussion I am hearing around R U OK Day, is that people realise it is just the tip of the ice berg in terms of how our society needs to evolve to better combat pervasive mental illness and suicide.
Much like the other awareness-raising campaigns, it is great that we have R U OK Day, but what I have found particularly pleasing this year is the number of people who want to do more than ask the question once a year. After all, it is an all year round responsibility. It is also a complex one. As a number of people have noted, it comes with the challenge of what to do if someone says ‘no.’ Other times you don’t need to ask at all, because you know the answer is ‘no,’ but you know they will say ‘yes.’
I think it is a mistake to start getting prescriptive about how we should act in particular circumstances, because people are unique, as is their suffering. For this reason our actions must be guided by our own empathy and knowledge of the person we are seeking to help, as much as anything we are told by others. However what is clear is that being true to the spirit of R U OK Day, requires us to bring a level of maturity, tolerance and empathy to our friendships, otherwise no one will answer us truthfully if they do need help.
Just as I haven’t accepted the 22 Push-up Challenge, I haven’t asked anyone the question today either. In fact I rarely ask the question quite like that, but I’ll continue to watch those I care about and act when I see the need or opportunity to make a difference. Sometime this will be through a question, at other times it may be an intervention, they never even know about.