RUOK won’t always make a difference

RUOK{photo source}

Today social media is flooded with reminders to ask those around you “Are you OK?” [RUOK]. This campaign has good intentions but for me, there is a dark side to this approach.

It assumes we can influence what other people do. There is a faint underlying suggestion that if we don’t ask the right question then someone might commit suicide because of our oversight. I believe that we should always remind our family and friends how much we love them, but in the end, they make their own decisions.

The one thing that helped me through my husband’s suicide was realising that sometimes love is not enough.

Survivors of a successful suicide often blame themselves for not having been there enough emotionally for their loved one.  They believe that if only they had done something differently, the person would have lived.

Both guilt and blame are nasty emotions—they take hold and are difficult to eradicate no matter how much we console the one suffering from them.  I think this is why my book helps so many people: it allows them to see that the suffering of the one they love is not due to them, but is an interior force that can overtake and destroy a life regardless of what others attempt to do to help.

~ Linda Gray Saxton (the daughter of the poet Anne Saxton) discussing her memoir “Half in Love” (my emphasis)

Some people contemplating suicide will respond to the question “Are you OK?” but others will never tell you what’s going on. The pain that rages deep inside them is so personal, so consuming, so overwhelming that they will never be able to speak its name. 

You can try, you can try again (please keep trying). But sometimes there is nothing you can do.


Except live your life afterwards knowing no matter what you did or didn’t do, it would never have been enough.

About KatieP

Embracing my midlife sexy while exploring modern love & relationships • Devoted to all things beautiful • Master of Arts in creative writing & non-fiction writing

4 thoughts on “RUOK won’t always make a difference

  1. Very true, Katie. I am a survivor a few times over and I actually asked all but one if they were ok, and they were “fine” and the fine was delivered with a sincere smile.

    More than just the suicide thing, I see RUOK Day as an opportunity just to let people know we’re listening, present and there for them. Sometimes people just need to be asked if they’re ok to be allowed permission to share something that they might otherwise decide to try to carry by themselves. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. It’s an opportunity to help someone feel better, though I’m sad that we actually need a specific day to remind us to do this.

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