RUOK? Listening, encouraging and checking in with those who may be struggling with life....
This Thursday 12th September is RUOK day. The RUOK campaign aims "to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life." (source ruok.org.au). Their goals are to:
1. Boost our confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life's ups and downs
2. Nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
3. Strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
4. Be relevant, strong and dynamic
RUOK day began back in 2009 when Gavin Larkin lost his father to suicide. This traumatic event left family and friends with deep grief and many questions to ponder. Through collaboration with specialists, Gavin became a champion for his father, recongnising that there is one important question we can ask in order to check in with our family and friends - are you ok? Whilst suicide prevention is a multi-faceted and complex topic, researchers have found some common traits of those who are vulnerable:
The first force is the person thinks they’re a burden on others; the second is that they can withstand a high degree of pain; and the third is they don’t feel connected to others. It is the latter point that RUOK focuses on- connecting people through conversation and enabling them to discuss any issues by empowering and listening to them. So how do you start a conversation? Here are the 4 points the foundation suggests:
1. Ask the question when they are in a quiet and comfortable place that's ideal for them
2. Let them talk without interruption and listen with an open mind
3. Check in with them again soon to see how they’re going
4. Suggest they talk to someone who can provide further support; like their GP, manager or teacher
Whilst this topic may be confronting and is often taboo, the facts are that it is a major public health issue in Australia. Did you know:
In 2017, preliminary data showed an average of 8.57 deaths by suicide in Australia each day
Males are around three times more likely to die by suicide than females.
People with alcohol or drug abuse problems have a higher risk of dying by suicide than the general population
Mental disorders such as major depression, psychotic illnesses and eating disorders are associated with an increased risk of suicide especially after discharge from hospital or when treatment has been reduced.
By understanding demographics and being cognisant of those who are more vulnerable, we can endeavor to provide more support to those predisposed. I appreciate this may be very confronting for some and when writing this blog, was trying to do so in the most tactful way. Through my journey as a paramedic and experiencing different stages of life in general, I have become aware that outward confidence doesn't always mean inner contentment. In my experience, judging or stereotyping people is often flawed and inevitably those who you think are ok, may in fact be far from it. So as we approach RUOK 2019, I implore you to keep an open mind and think about what this day is about.....? Can you make an impact on someone's life???
So take care of each other, keep conversation channels open, have a support network and be a supportive listener - you have the power to make HUGE changes to someone else! :)