R U OK? Day

Thursday 15 September, 2011 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.

On that day we want everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, to ask family, friends and colleagues: "Are you OK?".

Staying connected with others is crucial to our general health and wellbeing. Feeling isolated or hopeless can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which can ultimately result in suicide. Regular, meaningful conversations can protect those we know and love.

JACK THOMPSON, PRESENTER: G’day I’m Jack Thompson and I’m honoured to be an ambassador for R U OK? Day. It’s a national day of action to prevent suicide. When Gavin Larkin set up R U OK? Day three years ago he was a very successful advertising executive who seemed to have it all. But then his own world collapsed and suddenly Gavin himself was anything but okay. This is a story that he was determined to tell…

ASHTON BISHOP, FRIEND & COLLEAGUE: : Most people just would have quit, they would have just cocooned and all too hard, it’s all not fair. Gav did the complete opposite and he said, "You know what? I’ve got energy left, I’ve got life left. And I’m going to continue to make a difference. And he stood up and he continued with R U OK? Day right through to being in his hospital bed, being sick and he’s still on the phone directing traffic, making sure that it was going to be as good as it could possibly be.

JANINA NEARN, R U OK? DAY CAMPAIGN DIRECTOR: He ironically would say to me, "Are you OK? Well, I’m not." And you know, almost with a smile like, how ridiculous is that? That we started something and it’s you know very ironic that I’m not okay.

DR TIM BRIGHTON, HAEMATOLOGIST: He hadn’t got a complete response to initial treatment and so we had no choice but to do what we call a stem cell transplant and we had to squeeze this transplant in because Gavin had a very important day in his life that he wanted to get to and that was the R U OK? Day. And the timing was very, very tight. But he got there. Sheer determination I think.

GAVIN LARKIN: So I got out of hospital the day before and showed up, but you know, I was wearing a yellow T shirt and I think I was yellower than the T shirt. It was pretty grim. You know the reason I was there is that R U OK? Day is a lot more important than me. I am no saint, you know I have been and made all the great mistakes that human beings make and I have been a prick to some people throughout my life and you know I apologise whole heartedly to all those people. You know who you are, but so it’s not about just being a saint and doing this wonderful thing. Making sure that it lived and breathed on its own regardless of what was happening to me and what may happen to me, is very important. We’ve been able to get 30 per cent awareness across the country. One in ten adult Australians this year had an R U OK? conversation which is fantastic.

DR TIM BRIGHTON, HAEMATOLOGIST: So about a month after R U OK? Day Gavin was booked to have his lymphoma reassessed and unfortunately it actually showed even more lymphomatous disease and now in a number of areas.

GAVIN LARKIN: That was the first time that I went "shit, this thing’s got me" and I got really scared…

GAVIN LARKIN: One of the implications of where my treatment’s got to is I’ve had to step back from R U OK? Day. That’s been hard, it scares me letting go of it, scares me because I want to make sure it gets done right. And you know I want to see that it continues.

ANTHONY ‘AYA’ LARKIN, BROTHER: Of course you can’t replace any individual entirely but R U OK? Day has got a lot of momentum behind it and a lot of people who really see its worth so the wheels are turning to make sure that it’s got some good leadership moving forward.

GAVIN LARKIN: You know there’s a tonne of things I’m not proud of in my life. And I’m really glad that you know before it was too late I really got my act together and learned some lessons about what was important.

Gavin Larkin continues to receive palliative care at his home in Sydney.

R U OK? Day is this Thursday, September 15 and Gavin Larkin’s employer, the STW Group, has promised to support the event into the future.

That’s from the very moving Australian Story on R U OK’s founder, Gavin Larkin.

See also:

For Rob Burton: 14 September 1961 – 14 September 1989.