The Power of Asking R U OK?

In the wake of his father’s suicide, Gavin Larkin grappled with the realities of death. He wondered, “If this could happen to my father, am I susceptible to it as well?”

He was not okay

He looked back fondly at memories with his father and mentally replayed conversations. As a successful businessman, Barry Larkin had given no indication that he had been contemplating suicide. But the reality remained. Barry Larkin was not okay.

After documenting the impact of this experience in a documentary in collaboration with Janina Nearn, the pair realised the documentary served to tell the story but wasn’t sufficient to build a movement.

Building a movement

“In 2009, Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families form the pain he endured.”

Are you ok?”

This single question, in all of its simplicity, is powerful because of the intentionality behind it. It challenges a nation to ask a question that now shapes the way Australia views suicide prevention with the hope that it will “genuinely change behaviour Australia-wide


Karen Mudge, author of a Bible Society article published in 2012 said that R U OK Day “fits naturally with our calling as Christians to care for each other and those around us.”

Taking it one step further, R U OK day — its principles and intentionality — are especially pertinent to the Digital Discipleship movement: engaging with people online can be seen as a spiritual discipline.

Engaging online as a spiritual discipline

As Christians, we are familiar with the spiritual disciplines – if not as a collective than at least individually.

  • Fasting
  • Prayer
  • Bible Study
  • Evangelism
  • Service
  • etc.

In our digital age, engaging with people online is a spiritual discipline.  It is the modern story of the Good Samaritan.  It is Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well.  It is Philip’s obedience to the spirit in meeting the Ethiopian eunuch.  It is Saul’s life-changing arranged meeting with Ananias.

In order for these online encounters to happen, we must reach out.  We must meet people where they are in the digital space.

Much of life is lived online.

While some see the online space as a public photo album, displaying pictures of kittens, vacations, clothes and food, others find the online experience cathartic. They find strength in speaking online that they wouldn’t have in person.  They type away their sorrows, are often overly honest and send out digital distress signals.

Sometimes, even their silence online can be a loud cry for help. The question is, is anybody listening?

The R U OK Process

R U OK Day prompts us to ask this simple but important question and gives us tools for how to ask it.

As Digital Disciples, we are encouraged to be content creators, distributors and engagers.  And as important as the creators and distributors are to the Digital Discipleship process, the engagers give humanity to a world of pixels, bits, bytes and code.

Step 1 – Ask

First make sure you’re in a good headspace to ask.  Start with something simple like “How are you going”.  If something has caused you to be concerned, mention it specifically.  If you receive a bit of pushback, just follow-up with a question to make sure things are really okay.

Step 2 – Listen

Listen genuinely to their answers.  Don’t rush them and hold back any judgment you may feel.  Follow-up with questions like, how did that make you feel?

Step 3 – Encourage Action

Ask them how you can support them in their situation.  Prompt them to tell you how they’ve dealt with a similar situation in the past. Share how you’ve dealt with similar situations.  (Sometimes the situation may be too big for you to deal with alone.  In this case, bring along an expert to help.  Check out this link for resources for expert help).

Step 4 – Check in

Putting a reminder in your diary will prompt you to follow-up.  Keep in touch and continue to show genuine care and concern.

(For the full guidelines to How to Check-in, visit the R U OK resource page.)

A Lifestyle

For much of the nation, today’s focus on the health and wellbeing of their co-worker, cousin or online friend will soon fade.  It will be lost when the celebrities stop appearing frequently in yellow, when the pamphlets have been distributed and the commercials have run their cycle.

For Digital Disciples, engaging in genuine conversations online with our friends, family and strangers is a lifestyle modelled after Jesus’ life. It gives us permission and intentionality in our questions and it gives us purpose behind why we’re asking them.

So as you reach out today to ask R U OK, ask yourself how you can exercise the spiritual discipline of engaging online with your community with intentionality and purpose in order to grow God’s kingdom not just today, but every day.

Who will you reach out to to ask R U OK, and how can you build relationship with them and meet the needs they may have?

-Rachel Lemons Aitken, Communications Executive of the Greater Sydney Conference and Founder of the Digital Discipleship Ministry of the Greater Sydney Conference