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FeatureLiving Well


R U OK? Day acts as another reminder of how simple it is to be there for our community.

Nov 10, 2022

Words: Gippslandia
Images: Supplied

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1. Ask
2. Listen
3. Encourage action
4. Check in

Four steps to potentially dive into a conversation that could change a life – will you be the person to ask ‘Are you okay?’

In 1995, much-loved Barry Larkin was far from okay. His suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions.

In 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families from the pain he had endured.

Gavin was collaborating on a documentary with Janina Nearn when they realised that to genuinely change behaviour in Australia, they’d have to embark on a project much larger than the film. So, they created R U OK?, a national conversation movement to equip people with the skills and confidence to support those struggling with life.

R U OK? Day is the second Thursday in September. In 2023, that’s Thursday September 14 – jot it into your calendar now.

Their conversation allowed him to voice his feelings and then go on to get support.

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The four dot points presented in this piece are the initial steps to starting a conversation that could help a family member, friend or workmate open up – and no qualifications are needed to kick-off that convo.

Kardella South’s Michelle Debenham, a co-ordinator of Suicide Prevention at Wellways in Gippsland and a local R U OK? Ambassador, shared a recent interaction that highlights just how valuable these conversations can be.

Michelle had a young person that had called her; she asked if he was travelling okay and he wasn't. He told her he was considering suicide.

Their conversation allowed him to voice his feelings and then go on to get support. The young man revealed that previously he’d felt that this was not achievable because he lives rurally and doesn’t drive. He had also found it hard to discuss his challenges with his mum. Michelle had been there to listen at just the right time.

Michelle has been working in mental health for about seven years, and has said that she likes the R U OK? conversation movement because it’s applicable to everyone and we can all ask that initial important question (R U OK? research found that four out of 10 Australians felt the conversation was better had with an expert – but, believe us, you can do it!).

Very recently, a basketball journalist passed away from a rare cancer, leaving behind his wife and two-year-old son. In one of his final published pieces, he speaks of his own father dying from Parkinson's disease when he was young. He said that at his Dad’s funeral, he “saw lots of people that he knew of, but he didn’t know them”. He sought a different outcome for his son. In his final months, he said, “I don’t know how long I will be there for my son. All I can do is make the most of the time that I have left. That means investing in other people so they can be there for him.”

Each September, R U OK? Day acts as another reminder of how simple it is to be there for our community – listening to their response to one easy question helps you get to know them, and can have immense benefits, far greater than you may first anticipate.

So, how are you today?

R U OK? has released resources, tips and ideas to help you drive genuine change in your workplace, school and community. Sign up via to support the people in your world.

For immediate support, Lifeline Gippsland’s crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day at 13 11 14.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 24

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