‘Are you okay?’ It’s a simple enough question but if one were to ask at the right time in the right place, it could save a life.

That’s the idea behind R U OK Day. It is a national initiative in Australia on the second Thursday in September every year.

What is R U OK Day?

The initiative encourages Australians to make an effort to reach out to friends and family who have been acting unusually. The idea is that sitting down and having conversations will encourage people to open up about their mental health. This, in turn, will help prevent suicide by showing those who are suffering that people care about them.

R U OK Day’s official website has tonnes of useful tips to help people with starting those conversations.

In addition to the basic guide, they provide several more detailed downloadable manuals. These manuals cover specific issues in areas such as the workplace, in rural communities, in schools, and in universities.

You can get involved by downloading these guides and reading up. In addition, everyone should be vigilant for friends and family members acting differently than usual. If you ever spot someone who seems down, the guides will help you strike up a conversation to support them.

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All this is important because a study in 2015 found that the suicide rate in the country has never been higher. The study recorded eight suicides per day in Australia. However, experts estimate for every one of those there are 30 people attempting to take their lives.

In addition, 89 percent of Australians report knowing someone who has attempted to kill themselves. That’s a heck of a lot of people who are desperately struggling.

How many of those terrible incidents could we avoid if those people just knew they had people who cared about them?

That’s the message that R U OK Day is trying to get across.

Where did R U OK Day come from?

The day dedicated to these conversations was founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin. Larkin’s own father sadly took his own life in 1995, inspiring his son to work on preventing others going through what he had.

Gavin started work on a documentary. He wanted to explore the theory that a simple conversation could lead to stronger connections between people and consequently help prevent suicides. However, after starting this documentary, he realized it wouldn’t go far enough.

Gavin and his colleague Janina Nearn put together a national campaign and R U OK Day has been going on ever since.

Since its inception, R U OK Day has attracted many well-known ambassadors including Hugh Jackman and Naomi Watts.

Sadly, Gavin Larkin passed away due to cancer in 2011, however, his legacy is still strongly felt.