It was Oscar Wilde who said that with age comes wisdom. Ignoring the fact that he went on to add that age sometimes comes alone, there are many forms this wisdom can take.
One form, perhaps, is to recognise when our family or friends are not quite right; troubled by something; not their usual self.
It’s a perception that can come with the experience of having been there yourself, of knowing the person well enough or the experience of knowing what to look for.
And older people are, if nothing else, experienced.
So if you qualify as aged, be it middle or old, 12 September is a day you should identify with. It’s R U OK? Day, and if you’ve never heard of it, you’re among the 20 per cent of Australians who, according to organisers, haven’t.
It was started by Gavin Larkin, a Sydney businessman, husband and father of four.
Mr Larkin’s father committed suicide in 1995, leaving family and friends to not only grieve, but ask questions about their own involvement – “Should I have done more?” “Could I have done more?”
Mr Larkin, an advertising executive, came up with the idea to create R U OK? Day. Battling cancer himself, and with a young son diagnosed with a brain tumour, Mr Larkin’s passion for the cause was heightened as he watched his own family come to terms with his terminal illness and the threatening illness of son Gus.
Mr Larkin died in 2011, aged 42, and Gus died two years later aged 15.
At the time of Mr Larkin’s death, R U OK? Day was two years old and had taken infant steps towards becoming nationally recognised. It’s a brilliantly named campaign with a simple message – ask, listen, encourage action, check in.
As the R U OK? website says: “Got a niggling feeling that someone you know or care about isn’t behaving as they normally would? Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves? Trust that gut instinct and act on it.
“By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up.
“If they say they are not okay, you can follow steps to show them they’re supported, and help them find strategies to better manage the load.
“If they are okay, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask.”
R U OK? Day is not one that asks you to give a donation. It’s simply asking all of us to be more aware and more caring.
It does, nevertheless, hold events at which money is raised, so watch out for fun runs, movie nights, sausage sizzles or morning teas that carry the R U OK? banner and which may be held in your area.
Brooke Blurton, who was just 11 when she lost her mother to suicide, is a Perth-based ambassador for R U OK?
“I’m lucky to champion the importance of having life-saving conversations every day through my work,” Ms Blurton said in an interview on the R U OK? website.
“Time and time again, people tell me they think they’ve spotted changes in someone they care about, but they aren’t sure.
“I want to empower people with knowledge of the signs that someone is struggling, so they can trust their gut instinct and start a conversation that could change a life.
“You don’t have to be an expert, just a good listener and a good friend.”
The 12 September R U OK? Day coincides with the conclusion of a 14,000-kilometre walk around Australia, called the ‘Trust The Signs Tour’, ending in Sydney on that date.
Have you needed to ask the question R U OK? Do you take the time to notice mood or behavioural changes in people around you?
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