Today is National R U OK Day. The message is simple – ask those around you: “Are you OK?”

R U OK Day encourages people to ask those around them – friends, family, colleagues – R U OK? Relationships are crucial to who we are, and just those three little words could mean so much to someone who is struggling. People each other all the time, but how much do we really listen? In such a busy world, it can be hard to find the time. But by making the time, you can help people to feel cared about, and know that they are not alone.

As humans, we tend to work in ‘problem solving mode’ for a good portion of the time. Feeling hungry? Grab a snack or make a meal. Need a new hairdresser? Ask around to see if anyone you know has a good one. Can’t find your car keys? Ask your spouse to help you look for them. But when it comes to our emotions, humans are pretty complicated beings. Sometimes people aren’t able to explain why they are feeling a certain way and a common response can be to try and ‘fix’ the problem. While sometimes this can lead to a positive, empowering response in the person, at other times it can leave them feeling as though they haven’t been heard. Sometimes if someone is having a hard time the best thing you can do is to listen – allow them to feel heard and let them know you are there for them. And of course, if they need to speak to a professional then encourage or help them to do that.

So make the effort, take the time, and ask away. You may be surprised at what you hear. And while you may not feel as though you can do anything, that simple act of asking, caring, and listening can mean a lot.

It could be the most important question you ask someone today – or any other day: R U OK?

If you or someone you know needs support, see your local GP or phone Lifeline on 13 11 44. If it is an emergency, phone 000 or go to your nearest hospital.