Today, October 7 2010, is R U OK? Day. A chance to ask “R U OK?”, start a conversation, reach out to others and show that you care. Suicide claims more lives than the road toll in Australia and about 2 200 Australians take their life every year (Source: ABS Data). Each and every one of us can help reduce this figure. In light of today, I want to share with you a story, evidence that asking this simple question can change a life. This may just be my story, but I’m sure it’s not the only one.
August 7 2008. I was sixteen. I was in year 12, the final year of high school. I was also very unhappy, very stressed and very alone. I just didn’t want to deal with life anymore.
It was the middle of the night. Lights turned off except for mine. Eyes shut in deep slumber except for mine. What was I doing instead, in the early hours of this day? Despairing. Crying. Writing. Writing what was meant to be a suicide letter, which ended up being four A4 pages of every anger, ever sadness that had been pent up inside me.
Everything just felt too much, life too hard. I wanted to leave this world, yet was hesitant and afraid of taking that step. I had never attempted suicide before, never overdosed, never seriously harmed myself (not counting the superficial cuts I made on my thighs). I tested out a shoelace in what was a half-hearted attempt at hanging myself. I took five paracetamol tablets, back when I was naive enough to think that five would do some serious damage, perhaps even kill me. Obviously, it didn’t.
Tired and sad, I went to sleep.
In the morning I woke up. Put on my uniform. Got ready for school as usual.
“Why am I still here?” I asked my reflection in the mirror, tears pooling in my eyes. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Maths, second period of the day. My friend noticed I wasn’t the happiest. “Are you okay?” she asked me. I told her I was. She asked me a second time. I repeated that I was fine. “Are you sure?” she asked. “You don’t look okay.” I hesitantly told her, “I didn’t get much sleep last night and took a bit too much paracetamol.” She asked how many. I told her five. “How many are you meant to take?” I told her, “I don’t know.” But not five at one time. She asked why. Not wanting to admit I had been trying to hurt myself, I told her I had a headache.
That recess, she asked to sit with me. Not being in the same friendship group, we didn’t usually. I agreed.
She offered me the chance to talk. “Are you sure you want me to tell you?” I asked, being aware that what I was about to potentially tell her was quite heavy stuff. She told me that if I wanted to tell her, she’d listen. I told her. I told her of the self harm. I told her of the purging. I told her that I had been seeing the school counsellor. I had kept it a secret for so long, years, hiding it from friends and family. The first time I had told a friend of the cutting, it was in year 8 when I first started, and she didn’t take it very seriously. I hadn’t told any other friends since, until then. Four years later.
Upon finishing what I had to tell her, she told me she had no idea. “You know you’re one of my close friends right?” she asked me. I started crying then. I cried for all that had been happening. I cried for the relief of getting it out to someone. I cried because someone showed me that they actually cared. And I was comforted by the hug I received from her afterwards.
Prior to this conversation, I was contemplating coming home and overdosing again. Thanks to her, I didn’t, for that night at least.
It’s been over two years ago since this event, but I remember the day well. Proof that friendship and acts of kindness will be remembered.
This may just be one story, but it’s one of many. There are so many people out there in the world today who are hurting. But there are also so many people out there in the world who care. People who care enough to ask that simple but important question, “R U OK?” A conversation may not fix everything, or anything, but it’s a start. Just having someone notice that no, not everything is rainbows and sunshines, and yes, that they care enough to ask and listen can make a world of difference.
So I leave you with this video, created by headspace for R U OK? Day, and ask YOU the all important question:
R U OK?