Are you okay?
They’re just three simple words, but they can mean so much to someone who needs to hear them.
September 9 marked R U OK? Day, a national day of action which serves as a reminder that it’s okay to ask if someone is okay, no matter what day of the year it is.
It’s also important to know what to say next, according to Susan Raven, Chairman of the Barossa’s Suicide Prevention Network, Seeds of Hope, who hosted a pop-up stall in The Barossa Co-op mall.
“It’s not just those words ‘are you okay?’ It’s the follow up of what do you do when the person says they’re not,” she told The Leader.
“What we’re about is having resources we can hand to people so they know where they can direct people to. That’s a really crucial part of R U OK?”
According to the second State of the Nation report by Suicide Prevention Australia, 25 percent of Australians reported knowing someone who has died by suicide during the past 12 months of the pandemic.
Now, more than ever, promoting awareness around mental health and suicide prevention is critical, says Susan.
“We do live in incredibly stressful times so it’s even more important to get the messages out there and keep the conversations going,” she said.
With Suicide Prevention Australia estimating Australia’s annual suicide rate to be currently more than three times that of deaths from COVID-19, reaching out to others at work, at home, or even in passing can make a difference.
CJ Setlhong, who’s business, Century 21 Barossa, frequently gets behind initiatives such as R U OK? Day said it’s important to check in on clients and colleagues.
“I had a client a few years back… I met him at the post office and he didn’t look okay, and I just asked him that question,” said CJ.
“Guess what? He hasn’t forgotten.
“That to me is a good example of finding out if somebody is okay, because everybody has problems of their own but you never know until you ask.”
CJ’s colleague, Teri Wenske describes her close knit work team as being like a family who communicate openly, but admits that’s not always the case everywhere.
“Not everyone expresses that they are going though an issue,” she said.
“I lost a near and dear friend that I went to school with who was the happiest person you would ever meet. You would have never thought (they would consider suicide), but if we had simply asked, ‘are you okay?’ we may have prevented that.
“So I think that’s why it’s super important, because even the ones that don’t look like they’re struggling, or are the life of the party, sometimes they’re the ones who are struggling the most.”
If you or someone you know needs support, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. You can also contact your GP.