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Breaking down conversation barriers was the main focus of this year’s R U OK? Day, as hundreds gathered at a public event in Barangaroo on Thursday.
The event marked the national campaign's 10th anniversary, with the aim of encouraging Australians to start a conversation with friends, family and other colleagues about their mental health.
“Our [aim] is about what we can do at a peer to peer level which is hopefully having a conversation long before it manifests into a major crisis where somebody is thinking of taking their life,” R U OK?’s CEO, Mr Brendan Maher said.
“Were trying to strengthen the social scaffolding in communities, giving people a bit of guidance to have a conversation where otherwise they might be reluctant to.”
In 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that an average of eight Australians died from suicide each day.
After tragically losing his father to suicide, Mr Gavin Larkin started the R U OK? movement to prevent other Australian families from suffering the same grief he endured.
Although losing his own life to Non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2011, Gavin’s legacy has been carried by others who are striving to achieve the same goals.
NSW Minister for Mental Health, Mrs Tanya Davis demonstrated her support addressing the crowd at the event in Sydney.
“One of the best things about R U OK? Day is that you don’t need to be a mental health expert, just a supportive friend and a good listener,” Mrs Davies said.
“Suicide prevention is everybody’s business and the NSW Government will keep working with communities across the State to make sure people at risk, no matter who they are or where they live, get the right help at the right time.”
For the past six weeks, the R U OK? has campaigned in 25 regional and remote locations across Australia with four yellow branded vehicles named the Conversation Convoy.
"Each vehicle represented one step to the four steps of having a conversation (Ask, Listen, Encourage Action, Check-in),” Mr Maher said.
“It was really about bringing everyone together to reinforce what we can do at that peer to peer level to support somebody that we’re worried about”, Mr Maher said.
“We’re aiming to improve the intent and ability of someone to have a conversation where perhaps before they might not of because they didn’t feel confident enough too.”
“Eighty per cent of Australians are aware of R U OK? . Awareness is great but you have to translate awareness into behavioural impact.”
Mr Maher and other advocates emphasised that Australian’s should not view R U OK? Day as a single event each year but strive to start a conversation whenever they believe somebody is in trouble.
“There’s no shame in going there [to our website] and brushing up your knowledge if you are worried about someone… and more importantly what to do if someone says they aren’t doing so well,” Mr Maher said.