To mark R U OK? Day today (12 September) Lismore City Council has emblazoned a waste collection truck with the R U OK? message.
Council also held a breakfast barbecue for staff this morning where General Manager Shelley Oldham shared her personal experience of mental health and encouraged others to talk about mental health issues openly.
R U OK?’s vision is a world where people are connected and protected from suicide. The aim is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.
The truck wrapping was instigated by a Council staff member who wanted to promote the campaign in a visible and public way, and management agreed it was an excellent idea.
“Our collection trucks travel all over town at all times of day. If someone sees the artwork and that encourages them to ask one person ‘Are you ok?’ then it’s doing its job,” WHS Committee member Jody Hinds said.
“The essence of the campaign is that a simple conversation could change a life. The premise is that if people feel connected to others and have someone to talk to, they can more effectively work through dark times.
“R U OK? encourages you to ask a question if you have a niggling feeling that someone you know or care about isn’t behaving as they normally would, seems out of sorts, agitated, withdrawn or just not themselves. They encourage you to trust that gut instinct and act on it.”
The R U OK? campaign started in 1995 following the death of Barry Larkin, whose suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions.
In 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and try to protect other families from the pain his endured.
While collaborating with Janina Nearn on a documentary to raise awareness, the team quickly realised the documentary alone wouldn’t be enough. To genuinely change behaviour Australia-wide, a national campaign was needed. And from this realisation, R U OK? was born.
Gavin remained a passionate champion of the fact a conversation could change a life, even as cancer ended his in 2011.
“We are proud to support this campaign and encourage people to reach out to colleagues, friends and relatives,” Jody said.
“We can be deeply disconnected as a society despite all the technology we have that is meant to connect us. By starting a real conversation and commenting on changes you’ve noticed in someone you know, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. It could be the difference between them seeking help or not.”