Opinion

Time to ask a colleague if they’re OK

In this guest post, Joe Talcott argues that this Thursday’s R U OK? Day is particularly significant for the media and marketing industry

When STW Executive Gavin Larkin first spoke to me about his idea for R U OK? Day I was a bit uneasy. After all, discussing suicide has always been taboo. I was surprised to hear that suicide claims more lives in Australia each year than road accidents.

But then I realised that I could not think of anyone I knew who had been killed in an auto crash, but I quickly recalled three people I knew that had taken his or her life. The first was a High School mate many years ago. Each of the other two were talented, creative colleagues who worked in advertising.  

I considered all three of these events to be tragic, but naively thought that they were unpreventable.

That’s why the concept of R U OK? Day was so appealing to me. It wasn’t a fundraiser; it was a day of action that could literally change a life. Because, as Gavin explained to me that day, research shows that talking about suicide with someone at risk actually reduces the chance of them taking their own life.

I’m writing today in Mumbrella because I think that R U OK? Day has special significance for this industry.

Why we should care:

We all move at an incredible pace, working hard in a broad area called “communications”. We devote endless hours to understanding how people think and behave. Yet we can be oblivious to those people around us. Working side-by-side and yet unaware of how they are handling the pressures, criticisms, fatigue and stress that is common in our line of work. We should care about R U OK? Day because it provides an opportunity to pause, look around, and connect with someone in a way that could help stop a little problem from becoming a big one.

Why we should act:

Many of us have had the opportunity to do work for charities or noble public causes. But most times we are well removed from the end result of our efforts. We apply our talents to help inform and persuade others to donate time and/or money to provide services, fund research or educate. But the results of our actions can be years away from the work we do.

R U OK? Day gives us the opportunity to be part of the end result; because communication is one of the most effective means of preventing suicide. And for the majority of us, that simple action of asking someone how they’re doing can help prevent a little problem from growing into a big one. In the time it takes to have a cup of coffee we can help change a life.

So, will you help? Point your friends and colleagues to the R U OK? Day web site. Encourage their participation. And this Thursday October 7, take a moment and talk with someone you care about. Ask them if they are, in fact, OK.

Gavin Larkin discusses last year’s R U OK? Day:

  • Joe Talcott is group director of marketing at News Ltd and chairman of the Australian Association of National Advertisers
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