Last month we lost one of the world’s brightest stars. Robin Williams, the veteran, universally-loved comedian best known for his roles in Mrs. Doubtfire and Flubber, was pronounced dead by apparent suicide on August 11.

Tess Gibney

News of the actor’s death sent shock waves through the world; eliciting a flood of heartfelt responses on modern news media. The collective reaction was obvious: how could someone so respected, so loved, with so much joy to give, feel so sad as to take his own life? And, more importantly, why wasn’t the public more aware of the actor’s struggle?

Leaving behind a wife and two children, the death of 63 year-old Williams reminds us all that those with even the sunniest demeanor may be silently suffering. Putting the spotlight back on this debilitating, stigmatised illness, Williams’ struggle with depression illuminates the need for us to engage in meaningful dialogue with those around us.

Not-for-profit suicide prevention organisation R U OK? encourages us to do just that. Founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin and Janina Nearn, the premise of the R U OK? organisation is based on extensive research proving that “checking in with someone can really make a difference to their mental state”.

Running R U OK? Day annually every September, R U OK? aims to inspire people to “take the time to ask ‘are you ok?’ and listen”, hoping to help “people struggling with life feel connected long before they even think about suicide”.

For this year’s R U OK? Day, the organisation has partnered with – an online platform dedicated to helping “millions of young Australians get through tough times”. Together, and R U OK? are embarking on a 5-week east coast road trip to sign up 23,000 ‘Conversation Mates’: people who are prepared to ask the simple, powerful question “more regularly of family and friends”.

The road trip will culminate on September 11 in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park. Jono Nicholas, CEO of by Inspire Foundation, said that the team was thrilled to be part of this year’s R U OK? campaign.

R U OK’S message is incredibly important for young Australians to hear. For a young person, a conversation really can change a life.”

This September, be prepared to make a change by asking someone if they are ‘ok’. You can find out more about starting a meaningful conversation on the organisation’s website. Visit