The simple question that can save lives

Amid the rising tide of mental health, asking, ‘R U OK?’ has never been more important. Here’s how to get the conversation started.

R U OK? It’s a simple question, but it has the potential to change the course of a person’s life – and potentially yours too.

It’s a question Mostapha Kourouche, 40, has been asking with care and empathy for six years while volunteering as an R U OK? community ambassador.

“When I was younger, I actually lost a friend of mine to suicide,” Mostapha says.

“That has really changed my outlook, and I suppose I wanted to make some sort of a difference so no one else would have to go through that too.”

Mostapha’s travels with the organisation have seen him help hardened farmers, truckies and men needing support in their stressful family lives.

He says sparking conversations about mental health and saving lives is one of the most rewarding things in his life.

“It’s obviously not the reason for doing it, but it does feel really satisfying knowing you’ve made a difference in someone’s world,” he says.

Why it’s important to ask R U OK?

The 2021 National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing found more than 43 per cent of Australians have experienced a mental disorder during their lifetime – and one in five of those had experienced symptoms in the previous 12 months.

The suicide rate in Australia has been increasing since the mid-2000s, reaching more than 3000 deaths per year since 2015.

R U OK? started in 2009 with the idea that genuinely asking a person how they’re going and making yourself available to listen, could help reduce the number of Australians taking their own life.

“You can be anybody. You don’t have to be a psychologist,” Mostapha says.

The most important thing is to connect and to listen if someone needs to talk, Mostapha adds.

You don’t need the answers to be able to help

R U OK? chief Katherine Newton says anyone can ask the question and everyday people make the most significant difference.

“This year, R U OK? is championing the message: ‘Ask R U OK? No qualifications needed’, to remind Australians they already have what it takes to support the people in their world who might be struggling,” Katherine says.

She says this comes on the back of research that found one in four people believed only a professional could ask these kinds of questions.

“You don’t have to have the answers or be able to solve their problems, but you can help them consider the next steps and actions they can take,” Katherine says.

R U OK? Day is on September 14. Check out guides to spark conversations and what to do if someone needs help.


Originally published 6 Semptember, 2022.