I've struggled with depression in the past. I still see a psychologist to help manage my mental health.
I've never contemplated suicide, but I do know what it feels like to think things might not ever get easier.
At my worst, I've had the odd day when the words of a loved one or a stranger have snapped me out of a downward spiral, gotten me off the couch, helped me get myself to work.
But since I'm being honest here, words are rarely enough to elicit much more from me than a fake smile and the standard 'I'm fine', even on the days when I'm definitely not.
This Thursday is R U OK? Day, an initiative designed to prevent suicide by encouraging mates to check in on mates.
In my struggle to stay happy, I've never had a day when actions didn't mean a whole lot more.Alex Crowe
With eight Australian dying by suicide each day, another 30 attempting it and most experts agreeing those numbers will only increase as populations grow around cities and we become less connected to nature and community, you'd be crazy not to recognise the importance of September 12.
It is, however, a bit weak if lip service is as far as taking care of one another extends.
R U OK? Day encourages people to check in with people they know, listen to their responses, encourage them to take action and follow it up afterwards.
These are wonderful suggestions, but I'm sceptical that very many people will answer honestly if they're struggling. And experience tells me it's unlikely too many people will check back with their mates next week.
Could taking action actually be easier?
We've all experienced how a seemingly small gesture can change our mood. How when someone takes the time to do something for us it can change our day. It need not be a loved one, it works just as effectively from a stranger.
So how about giving up the car park for the mum with a baby in the back? Taking the bins out for the holidaying neighbours? Or letting the old guy cut the grocery queue?
Kind words have sometimes had a huge impact on me. Occasionally, they've been a wonderful way for friends to reach out, to encourage re connection, to remind me I'm not alone - but they've never been particularly practical.
In my struggle to stay happy, I've never had a day when actions didn't mean a whole lot more.
People need, I've needed, someone to bring dinner around, someone to mow the lawns, someone to pop over with a DVD. It might all start with a question, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking that's enough.
Depression is debilitating in that it's hard to stop doing all the things which you know will exasperate the problem. It's hard not to sleep all day, to drink too much, to eat badly and to forget to shower.
The problem is made all the more worse when the only thing which feels harder than taking care of yourself is letting anyone else take care of you.
I suspect this is why most of us answer, 'Are you okay?' with 'I'm fine'.
'If there's anything I can do just let me know' is a nice gesture, but most of us are experts at disguising when we're struggling - let alone asking for help.
But that doesn't mean we can't all help one another.
So this week when you do the right thing by tapping you husband, your neighbour or your colleague on the shoulder to ask, 'Are you okay?' follow it up with with a gesture which might just get them through the day if they're not.
Alex Crowe is a Australian Community Media journalist. The opinions expressed in this piece are hers alone.
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