It is a simple question but asked with compassion and genuine concern; these three words can be life-changing. ”Are you ok?” is a direct question that cuts straight to the core of the matter. It has the potential to open the door to meaningful conversations that surpass the superficial and provide the opportunity for people to be truly heard.
In 2000 a powerful movement was started in Australia. R U OK? is a suicide prevention organization that aims to encourage individuals to genuinely inquire about the welfare of the people in their life. The organization was founded by a man who lost his father to suicide. Gavin Larkin knew from personal experience what could happen when a person felt down and disconnected from others for an extended period of time. He wanted to create an organization that inspired people to be proactive about looking out for the people they know. Many people feel uncomfortable initiating conversation pertaining to their wellbeing. Such people often will not speak about what they are going through unless they are asked. And so R U OK? encourages us to be people who care enough to ask.
This is a topic that is particularly relevant to expats. There are a plethora of reasons that can make being an expat extremely stressful and lonely. These difficulties can be compounded by the fact that one’s usual support networks are now so far away. If the research is true, taking the time to verbalize sincere interest in a person can have a profound impact. Extending an invitation to engage in heartfelt dialogue and share what really matters can leave a person feeling significant and connected.
If you look carefully, you can often see when a person is not quite themselves and might be struggling with life. Inner turmoil isn’t always so obvious, but often it can be detected if we look close enough.
What if we all purposed to look beneath the surface and be attentive to the internal well-being of the people in our lives? What difference would it make if we made a point of regularly asking the people we know—“R U OK?” The question doesn’t have to be phrased using this exact vocabulary. There are dozens of ways of asking a person how they are are doing. What really matters is the sincerity of the one who cares enough to just ask.