“R U OK?”

Today is R U OK? Day.

R U OK? Day is an initiative designed to start conversations, connect people, and prevent suicide. It’s all about asking that simplest of questions -“Are you OK?” – and being present and ready to listen.

The tagline is “A conversation could change a life.” I believe it wholeheartedly.

While I have never been suicidal, I have certainly had really low, really dark times, and about 3 years ago I was diagnosed with depression by both a GP and a psychologist. I am fortunate that I have a fabulous wife, amazing children, and brilliant parents and friends, in my support network. I am also fortunate that I was able to make vast changes to my lifestyle – with help and support – and have now reached a point where I manage my depression and live a wonderful, (mostly) balanced life.

Not everyone understood what I meant when I first said “I’m not coping.” In fact, for the longest time I didn’t even admit it to myself, let alone to others. When I did finally admit that I wasn’t coping, what I needed was a sympathetic ear to listen. I didn’t want or need judgement. I didn’t want to be told how good my life was. I didn’t need lectures about simply sucking it up, and getting on with the job.

I wanted to be seen. I needed to be heard and validated. I needed to know that it was OK to feel like this sometimes, and that I wasn’t a massive failure, I wasn’t a freak, I wasn’t an idiot, I wasn’t an ungrateful jerk. I wanted someone to understand that, no matter how wonderful things looked, I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t coping. I wasn’t enjoying the ride.

Like I said, I am extremely fortunate that I have a wonderful, diverse support network. I am grateful for all of my friends, my family, and my colleagues, and I am grateful that I was able to find the help and treatment I needed to get back on track.

I should point out that there are some useful, meaningful ways to ask a question like “Are you OK?” – and there are other, less effective, less compassionate ways to ask that question. Here’s the best summary I have ever seen.

If you are not OK, please feel absolutely free to email me (hit reply – israel@israelsmith.com) or phone me (+61 413 708 432 / 0413 708 432).

I’m not the saviour of the Universe, but I am a good listener. I promise you that if you are NOT OK, all you have to say is “Israel, I’m not OK.” and I will move mountains to hear you. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to me, please reach out to someone you love, know, or trust.

I had a great conversation a few weeks back with a mate. We chatted about opening up, being vulnerable in front of our friends, and how that might change their perceptions of us. He shared that he was afraid of what people might think if he opened up – that they might think less of him, perceive him poorly, judge him and want to distance themselves from him.

While I accept that occasionally we meet people like that, in my personal experience, I have always found that opening up and showing vulnerability has brought me closer to people, and given me deeper and more meaningful connections with people.

So I ask you: Are you OK?

And I encourage you to ask others today – and every day – “Are you OK?”

With love,
Israel. xo

PS To pre-empt your question: Yes, I am absolutely OK. I am learning more and more about myself each week, as I overcome obstacles on my journey and try to embrace change gracefully, leap into uncertainty, and step up to making the difference I know I can make. You make it easier, each time you reply personally, or forward, share, pin, tweet, like, or otherwise introduce others to my work. Thankyou.