I watched Australian story Beyond OK and was touched by the amount of tragedy that can strike just one family some times. It’s awe-inspiring to see how they responded with such bravery to significant challenges. So random in this life who gets dealt such a tough hand. Gavin Larkin set up R U OK? in 2009 as a personal project to honour his late father. Importantly he had been encouraged that one way to assist with his depression, was to put himself out there and develop a project that was truly bigger than him and that was all about helping others. Years earlier his father had suffered from depression and isolated himself until he tragically took his own life.
Emotional pain can be overwhelming at times and only the person suffering from it can fully understand the extent to which it takes over and can make someone feel like the only way to end the suffering is to commit suicide.
Luckily times have changed and much education exists around suicide and suicide prevention. Yet Gavin Larkin had to live with the ripple effects of his fathers’ early demise for the rest of his life. To his credit, he rose to the challenge of the project idea. He used his life experience as a motivator for him to take a stand when he too became a sufferer of depression. Instead of isolating himself he sought help.
A simple idea, with huge potential benefits, the project urges us all to just look around on this one day and ask someone that may seem not right if they are ok? It is a great way to de-stigmatize checking in on those who may be silently suffering without support. Unfortunately, there is such a need for the day as a reminder as suicide is still a very real and prevalent problem in our society, particularly amongst men.
Some alarming statistics from Lifeline
The overall suicide rate in 2015 was 12.6 per 100,000 in Australia. This is the highest rate in 10-plus years
This equates to more than eight deaths by suicide in Australia each day
Deaths by suicide in Australia occur among males at a rate three times greater than that for females.
The suicide rate amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is more than double the national rate.
For every death by suicide, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives, approximately 65,300 suicide attempts each year.
Even more disturbing as both the program and the ABC article describes here Larkin later died of lymphoma, and then his son died from a brain tumour just two years later. Devastating grief for the family who even six years after Gavin’s death, is still involved with R U OK? day. This family learnt the hard way that acceptance was the only way to enjoy the remaining time that they had together. Gavin Larkin commented that everything that happened taught him the power of love. Maryanne Larkin, Gavin’s wife feels that the project has created a community around her and her remaining two children. Movingly she concludes the program with the words “so it’s so strange to think that what Gavin put in place was actually going to help his family when he died, and it has enormously.” After watching this show I am definitely going to be asking those around me who seem here but not here if they are ok……