Today is R U OK? Day.

It’s a national day of action which aims to prevent suicide by encouraging Australians to connect with someone they care about and help stop little problems turning into big ones.

“In the time it takes to have your coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life. On R U OK? Day, who will you ask?” – R U OK? Day founder, Mr. Gavin Larkin.

According to the website:

“Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses experienced by Australians and research tells us that one in five Australians will experience depression in their lifetime. Moreover, 4 per cent of us will experience a major depressive illness in a 12-month period. Clinical depression is nothing to be ashamed of and it is always worthwhile to ask for help if you think you might have clinical depression.”

The Black Dog Institute concurs that depression is a common illness, and according to beyondblue, around one in six Australian men will suffer from depression at any given time. Probably one of the most disturbing points raised on the beyondblue website is:

“The experience of male depression is complicated by the fact that men are more likely than women to shy away from medical treatment of any kind. Instead of discussing psychological problems, or seeking appropriate treatment, men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed or anxious.”

Has this always been the case? I don’t know, I’m no expert. I am however the father of three teenage boys and I can tell you that getting them to talk is akin to extracting teeth.

So where has this disconnect come from?

From my perspective male gender roles have a lot to answer for. The saying ‘big boys don’t cry’ was very common when I was a child, often delivered by older generations to stop the squawking of a bleeding boy desperate for a band-aid.

These men went to war, watched their friends die, endured the Great Depression and became the archetypal patriarch of the family. They were expected to earn the living, make the decisions, provide for the brood. All the while burying their feelings deep down inside. Men weren’t allowed to shed tears, feel emotions, or express themselves.

We went to the pub, drank beer and watched sport with our friends, never once opening up to each other.

And who decided that this was how it was supposed to be? Men, probably. Then we passed it down from generation to generation.

This is all supposition of course. I haven’t done any research. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just a man 😉

I do tell my dad that I love him every time I see him.

I do hug and kiss my boys whenever they leave.

And I try to talk to people when the going gets a little tough.

So, on R U OK? Day do yourself a favour. Talk to your friends, your family and connect with those you care about.

Are You Ok? — Matt

R U OK? – the organisation

R U OK? is an independent, not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to provide national focus and leadership on suicide prevention by empowering Australians to have open and honest conversations and stay connected with people in their lives.More than 2,100 Australians suicide each year and men are around four times more likely to die by suicide than females. For each person that dies in this way, another 30 attempt to end their life (Lifeline).R U OK? aims to inspire all Australians to help reduce our suicide rate by reaching out and making contact with others.Most people don’t openly share their feelings, particularly when they’re struggling so don’t wait for a sign and trust your instincts. A conversation could change a life.The best thing we can all do is regularly ask the people we care about: “Are you OK?” regardless of whether they are at risk because connection is good for us all.