This Thursday, October 7, is RU OK? Day. It’s the day when we’re all encouraged to ask someone whether they are ok. Sounds trivial, right? But this simple act can help reduce the chance of suicide.

Look around you – at your family, friends and colleagues. Ask “are you ok”? Listen to their response. Be interested. It’s important – it’s important because each year in Australia, suicide claims more lives than the road toll. It’s an epidemic, and yet many people struggle with the isolation and desperation that drives them to take their own lives.

Now, I have written previously about suicide and men’s health – for the Black Dog Institute and Riding4aCause as well as working with Mark Pollard to create and publish a book of stories called The Perfect Gift for a Man on depression and male suicide. I would love for this to no longer be a problem in our society – but it remains a very real issue that touches us in many ways. As Cathie McGinn explains, it is hard to ask the question, but:

I’ll never know if there was anything I could have done, if one single question would have changed the course of events. I don’t know whether it would have changed anything, really, but I’ll always regret not reaching out.

I currently have a member of my extended family experiencing a profound depression. He sits in a chair and cries all day. His family don’t know what to do. Their house is being repossessed. Their young children are distraught. And local doctors would like to hospitalise him, but they do not have medical insurance – and there are no public beds. It’s a powder keg, and it’s completely avoidable. But this one family is being torn apart needlessly. And I am sure it’s not an isolated case.

Asking RUOK? is important. But we also must go much further. We must fix the living tragedy that exists right under our own roofs.