The road to OK will take more than a day

Thursday, as most of our readers undoubtedly know, was R U OK? Day. It’s a day when we remind ourselves of the need to connect with those around us and check on their welfare. 

The idea is to start a conversation with someone around you who may not seem to be themselves. They might seem disengaged, agitated, out of sorts. By asking them if they are OK, you might just trigger a discussion that could get them back on track.

Of course, it’s not just about asking the question; it’s just as much about listening. According to the R U OK? website, deciding whether to ask the question of someone else requires you to be ready to listen.

If you asked the question – good on you. Hopefully you were ready if someone replied, “No, I am not OK.”

Because even more important than asking the question is being prepared to make a commitment to your fellow man’s mental wee-being over the long haul.

The story in today’s newspaper about the rates of suicide in regional and rural areas serves to emphasise this.

If a conversation is prompted, you need to accept you can’t necessarily fix the problem. Just talking about it, however, might help relieve the issue. 

It’s important to follow up the conversation, to check back and see if things have improved. If you don’t feel you are the right person to pop the question, it’s worth asking yourself if someone else is. 

It’s a bitter irony of modern life that we are more connected than ever by the devices we carry every day. However, our smartphones and tablets can also lead to a sense of isolation and inadequacy.

Nothing beats a genuine, face-to-face conversation – no tweet or Facebook post will ever adequately replace the sense that a real person is present and listening. Empathy wins out over electronics every time.

While R U OK? Day is designed to encourage us to look out for each other, it’s something we should be thinking about every day, not just once a year on September 14.

If you or someone you know needs help, Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis counselling, support groups and suicide prevention services. Call 13 11 14.

MensLine Australia is a professional telephone and online support and information for Australian men. Call 1300 78 99 78, 24 hours/seven days a week.