What do you do if someone's not ok?
So you do strike up that conversation on RUOK Day...but someone isn't ok.
Well, one thing you can do is talk to them, and find out what's bothering them. Maybe they're just not feeling OK, maybe they just need someone to talk to. After all, sometimes we all just need to talk a little, right? The day is about suicide prevention, but suicide prevention can start with working on mental illness itself- after all, according to the American National Institute on Mental Health, over 90% (yes, you read that right, and I highlighted it with large font for a reason) of suicides have a precursor of mental illness or substance abuse.
This means that the suicides that we're trying to prevent- bravo!- often follow along with mental illness and substance abuse. While asking a person if they're doing okay can prevent suicide, it can also bring a person out of a rut, or perhaps target those with mental health or substance abuse disorders that haven't been brought out of the background yet- however, a number of exactly how many people are walking around undiagnosed with a mental illness cannot be found...because they are undiagnosed....ie not on record.
RUOK Day is great for this- it can help bring these people to realize- hey wait, maybe there is a problem. It can help them to realize it's okay to have an issue, and it's okay to have a conversation about it! It can help to possibly bring them out of a rut and into the world, where they may actually seek help for their disorder, or the conversation itself may include encouragement to seek help (hopefully the latter, if they are that far off).
RUOK Day gives a chance for people who are undiagnosed and living behind the scenes to be themselves and discuss their problems without the stigma of being "ill" or "crazy". It's often the misconception of the people who refuse to seek treatment that this is the kind of label they will receive- having talked to some of them myself- and therefore they refuse medication or treatment.
Initiatives like this help them to realize that having a mental illness is not something that is all that uncommon, and will not prevent them from living a full and possibly even happy life. They can help people, they can work jobs, they can go places and not be recognized for what's going on in their heads- they just have to allow themselves to realize that what's going on is not their fault. It's wonderful that Australia not only encourages their citizens to go out and engage in conversations, but creates an entire day and promotes it nationwide, even having companies and schools set aside times for citizens to sit down and ask people if they are doing okay, and catch up with people who might not be doing so okay.
This is an excellent way to catch out people who may be dealing with a mental illness early on and get them the help they need, whether they seek it or need help seeking it, and is also a great initiative for getting people to help others and reach out when a friend is in need. I've noticed that Australia is a very caring country, and how well people bond together when there is a need or disaster- they are there for each other- there is no blaming or people pushing others out. People simply jump in and help one another.
This is simply one example of how well Australians do that- citizens are jumping in and helping one another, crisis or not, asking people if they are doing okay, helping them if they need help, encouraging them to seek help if they can, all in an effort to decrease suicide and help relieve mental illness, a large factor of suicide, in the country. One conversation can do something like that. It's amazing what one conversation can do.