Today is RUOK? Day in Australia, a day all about suicide prevention. It’s a day that’s pretty important because it is dedicated to trying to break down a stigma that can sometimes seem impenetrable.
For the mental health community it’s a day to show how strong we are. No matter how uncomfortable the conversations around mental health may be, we’re still pushing towards breaking the stigma.
For me it is a day to reflect on how far I’ve come in my own battles with mental health. It reminds me just how brave I am and how much resilience I’ve developed over the past few years. It reminds me that I am lucky because I’ve never tried to take my own life.
However, to say that I’ve never thought about taking my own life would be a lie.
Fortunately, I’ve always been able to dismiss the thoughts by remembering how my decision could affect those around me.
But not everyone is that lucky.
There are some people so clouded by the emptiness they feel and so consumed by how much they want to stop feeling anything that taking their own life is the only option and unfortunately we are still losing people to mental illness every single day.
We lose fathers and brothers and other young men who are constantly told they shouldn’t show their emotions because it doesn’t fit the notion of ‘being a man’. We lose those in the LBTQI community because they are so tired of being discriminated against everyday. We lose young people who are feeling so empty and alone and vulnerable but are too afraid to reach out because they don’t want to be called attention seekers.
We have these beautiful people taken from us by a terrible but preventable illness because they feel like no one cares.
We are reminded today to be kind. To reach out and talk to the people in your life. To accept people. To try and understand what they are going through and to stop stigmatising mental health.
But to be honest, it’s going to take more than just a day of asking if someone is okay. We need to make an effort to be kinder, to be more accepting and to reach out and check in everyday with those we know are struggling.
I encourage you to reach out today, and everything other day, to a loved one, a parent, a sibling, a friend or a colleague and ask if they are actually okay. And if they aren’t then listen.
To anyone who is struggling, I want to remind you that you don’t always have to be strong. You don’t always have to have everything together. It really is okay not to be okay.
And to anyone who feels like they can’t do it anymore, I encourage you to reach out and talk to someone. It might not be an easy conversation, but it is the most important one you may ever have. Even thought it seems like you’re alone in the world, there is someone out there who cares, and who wants you to share the burden of your pain with them.
So if you only take away one thing from today, it should be this. One conversation could change someones life – yours or theirs.