Skip to content

One question that could save a life: ask it

letters in text form reading Are you okay?


It’s a standard Australian welcome, a casual salutation.

Do you usually listen to the response?

Tomorrow 14 September you may feel like changing that greeting to someone to ‘Are you okay, mate?’

It doesn’t sound that much different in its formality yet the campaign behind it is life-changing – and you asking that question could be too, particularly if you listen.

14 September is RU OK? Day, an annual day dedicated to remind us to check in on family, friends and colleagues regularly and raise awareness of suicide prevention.

Laughter Yoga activities with Heather Joy Campbell at Central Queensland University campus, Rockhampton, 2016.

This time last year, I was in Rockhampton, running laughter yoga sessions with Central Queensland University students, administrative staff and academics, helping them ‘unload’ their stresses and struggles.

Asking ‘Are you okay? —like practising laughter yoga exercises with others —creates connections. Those connections invite meaningful conversations. They can, like laughter yoga, help flick a switch to shine light where all seemed bleak. They can make people feel like they matter.

Maybe a friend or family member has been ‘out of sorts’ lately. You’ve had a niggling feeling that all is not well with a work colleague, team mate or neighbour. But you don’t want to be thought of as nosey, and if you do ask, and you hear more than the equally typical ‘Fine, mate, how’s yourself’, what will you do?

The RUOK? website has some great tips on how to get the most from this seemingly simple question—along with equally important self-care (like ‘are you in the right headspace to ask the question’).

  • Ask
  • Listen
  • Encourage action
  • Check in

Perhaps tomorrow isn’t the right time or place to ask, maybe you have your own stuff to deal with. That’s okay. I’d argue that there’s no one day in a year to ask the question: be brave, be supportive, be there. It’s very much okay to ask ‘R U OK?’


WORRIED SOMEONE MIGHT BE SUICIDAL? Contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for crisis support. If life is in danger, call triple zero (000).

(c) Heather Joy Campbell 2017

Founder of The Happydemic, Heather Joy Campbell is a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher based in Brisbane, Australia, who delivers professional laughter wellbeing workshops, seminars and laughter leader training across Queensland. She also runs a weekly suburban laughter club.