Are you OK?
Americans, how often do you hear this phrase? You pretty much hear it when your life is crashing down, and it pretty much looks like your not okay, so the question is pretty much a moot point, right?
In Australia, they have an amazing initiative, which I wish America would at least take note of, called "RUOK Day." On this day, September 15, workers, university students, and high school students alike, as well as just about anyone else, are encouraged to ask colleagues, friends, and neighbors, and just about anyone else they know "Are you okay?"
The great thing is, it's not like our "awareness weeks"....where nobody is aware of them. I mean, how many people were aware that this week was National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week? I was, but I didn't plug it because I wanted to plug this cause instead. Why? Because RUOK day is a much more aware, nationwide cause. People are talking about it on blogs, forums, in newspapers, on the news, and everywhere. I've seen it ad nauseum, and I'm not even in Australia- they even have a website for it- click here to see what I'm talking about.
The point is, these Aussies know that suicide is a noteworthy cause that should be looked out for- it's not something that is outwardly obvious, as some of us have experienced and seen. I've lost someone myself- she showed no outward signs. One day she was fine, the next, I hear she hung herself. Corky lost a good friend to suicide when he was 13- Thirteen people!! What if someone had asked them "Are you OK?"
But Americans don't do that. Americans don't have that level of awareness. They establish weeks, and assume that people who know someone related to the cause will wise up, and those who don't really need it won't care- therefore it becomes less of a cause. RUOK day is an excellent cause, and, according to the RUOK day website, created over 650,000 conversations- people who would not otherwise have gone to someone to talk about what was troubling them.
Sadly, so many people commit suicide because they have nobody to talk to in those dark times of need, and RUOK day is just one initiative to show that someone out there cares. It's not a superficial "Are you OK" in passing, but a real "Are you OK? Let's have a conversation." Americans don't do that. Americans are too caught up in their everyday lives, and unaware of initiatives or causes to stop and have a slow conversation. It's sad and appalling, the difference in cultures.
How many suicides could be prevented by the adoption in America of an RUOK day or similar initiative? How many lives could be saved? How many lives could be changed? (after all, it helps with mental illness, too). How many friendships could be forged, and how many gates opened for communication? America, I know we're caught up in a lot of issues, but we need to stop and think about other individuals too. What can we do for ourselves, what can we do for them, how can we help? Something like this could create a buzz, and that's just the kind of thing we need.
I know many of the people reading this are Aussies who will participate or be swept up in the day itself anyway, but this is addressed to the Americans who aren't- I'd like you to participate, with the Aussies, on RUOK day (that would be this next Thursday, September 15), sit down, and speak with your friends, ask them how they are, check in, and make sure everything is ok. Sure, on the outside, everything may seem ok, but often people put on a façade in front of everyone- one on one is best. Have a cup of coffee, have a lunch break. Set aside your newspaper and talk to the guy who sits alone in the corner- you may be the only person he talks to all week.
Americans, we are too divided from one another, and too unaware of the initiatives going on around us. Mental health is something that really needs to be focused on, because a large portion of society has a mental illness- last I checked, a good 6 percent- and suicide is one of the top 5 leading causes of death in America. This is serious. Check in, talk to people, have a conversation- it won't take that much time out of your day- and be sincere about it. I'd honestly like to see this go farther than the reaches of my readers. I'd like to see it spread across the country (broad, for a weeks' notice), or at least make some sort of impact. If it does have an impact, or if someone has a story, I want to hear it. I'll have a linkyer up in two weeks, right next to my *new* blog hop- for RUOK day stories. I'm serious about this.
Are you OK? Are you being honest?
I'm not really OK, but I'm hanging in there. I will be ok, but it would be nice if someone in real life took the time of day to ask about it. Nobody has. Good on you, Australia, not only for making it an initiative, but for having a well-publicized initiative that people know about and participate in. One more reason to love Australia