This week marks World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK Day. The theme of World Suicide Prevention Day is ‘Take a minute, change a life’. It highlights the importance of speaking up and taking the time to listen.
This is not just a slogan — it’s a fact! A critical fact. Sometimes the smallest acts can change lives. Sometimes just asking “Hey, are you OK?” can make all the difference in someone’s life.
A smile, a kind word, a hand on the shoulder, a phone call — the smallest things can be the biggest things. You never know what someone is going through. They could be having the worst day of their life.
Dean Publishing CEO Susan Dean has a friend called Debbie Reynolds. Debbie knows how vital these small acts of kindness and care can be. In fact, Debbie’s simple act of asking someone “Are you OK?” saved a life.
Here is a brief version of Debbie’s powerful story in her own words:
I had just taken over a new managerial position at a large call centre of approximately 150 people. I was walking around, as usual, saying my casual ‘Good mornings’ and getting to know the place and the people.
All of a sudden, I felt a wall of cold air. I just stopped. It’s hard to explain what I felt, but it just stopped me in my tracks. I looked to my right, and asked the lady sitting there “Are you OK?” I had yet to get to know my team, so I didn’t really know anything about her but something compelled me to speak with her.
“Not really,” she replied.
Being the Senior Manager I could have asked one of my team to talk with her, but something made me ask her if she would like to go for a cup of tea. Thankfully she was brave enough to say ‘yes’ to me.
We sat together over tea and chatted.
“I hate my life. I hate this job. I hate everything at the moment.” she confessed.
This young woman was in a difficult spot in her life and everything was just getting on top of her. I asked her what she would like to do as work and what other choices she had available to her in order to make some changes.
“I’m good at organising stuff” she admitted.
By coincidence at the time, my PA was on leave and I needed someone to organise things at work — take minutes, organise people’s schedules and run some general errands. Though the project was only for six months it was on offer that she quickly agreed to.
After the project finished I moved on to another position and we didn’t work together anymore.
Five years later. The young lady sent me a text out-of-the-blue. The text read:
On the day that you stopped to ask me if I was OK, I had written a letter to my family, got my affairs in order and was planning on committing suicide that weekend. You gave me my life back. You’re my angel.
Debbie says “All I did was listen for half an hour. All I did was take an interest in her. We worked on a strategy together for her future and looked at her choices. I had no idea what she had planned.”
Though suicide is a multi-faceted topic and we aren’t all experts in the prevention of suicide. We can all be experts at extending a kind word or a smiling at someone who needs it. We can all be experts at asking “Are you OK?’’ We can all reach out and radiate some warmth and compassion just like Debbie did that pivotal day.
Dean Publishing YShift author Andrew Marriott is a leading expert on the subject of suicide. His son Glenn took his own life at 18 years of age. Andrew and his wife Megan were thrust into the harrowing world of suicide postvention and bereavement. Andrew’s chapter in Resilience — Building a Powerful Mindset, sheds light on the ways we can contribute to suicide prevention as a community.
Andrew reiterates the importance of:
CONNECTING, COMMUNICATING and CARING.
These 3 things save lives! We need to do these 3 things, not just read about them— but actually do them.
Let’s embrace those who are struggling right now. Let’s be the warm place they need. Let’s listen without judgement and be a beacon of hope through their darkness.
Even if you can’t find the right words, take advice from a mother that knows —Megan Marriott. After losing her son Glenn, she advises: “Saying the wrong thing is better than saying nothing at all.”
Debbie’s story is a testament to the impact of saying something. Of speaking up and taking time to care.
This week is especially poignant in increasing awareness about suicide. Watch for the point Andrew makes about the next question to ask after the initial “Are you OK?” The question Andrew suggests is possibly one of the most challenging to ask but also the most critical to know the answer to.
By asking these questions, reaching out and caring — together we can change the stigma, alter the statistics and change the lives of those in need.
As Gandhi so powerfully suggested, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
- Words are powerful but we must use them for them to make an impact.
- Saying something only takes a minute but a minute of caring could change a life.
- One person, one sentence, one minute can BE the difference. And that difference could be you.