Do you remember where you were when you found out that Princess Diana had been killed in a car accident? I was only nine at the time, but I still remember it distinctly; my mother, sister and I were watching coverage of it on TV, and though we had no particular connection to her, we all weeped openly – as did much of the world.
In these last weeks, there have been a number of interviews and news stories around Princess Diana’s life, as the world commemorates twenty years since her passing. No doubt, Diana was a radiant, charismatic, elegant and charming public figure – an affectionate mother, a stylish dresser, and someone who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in her engagement with people with AIDS and other diseases.
And yet, the thing that has struck me the most about her life is how much pain she was hiding. The pressures of royal and celebrity life were not easy to deal with, and Diana found herself struggling with depression and bulimia, feeling like she had no one to confide in. This is not an unusual story – consider Robin Williams, Kurt Cobain, and Marilyn Monroe.
This Thursday 14th September is “R U OK Day”. This was founded by Gavin Larkin, who set up this personal project in honour of his father Barry, who took his own life when Gavin was young. The aim of the day is to encourage all people to check in with their friends and relatives, simply asking the question: are you ok? His hope was that this would encourage people to reach out to those who may be struggling, but who don’t feel like they can talk to anyone about it.
Asking people if they are ok is perhaps counter-cultural to the Australian “she’ll be right” mentality, but it is so necessary in our country where mental health issues are so prevalent, particularly amongst young adults, the elderly, and returned servicemen and women.
May I encourage you all, both this Thursday and at other times, to check in with those around you, particularly those who seem on top of the world, and ask them this simple question. They might respond with “I’m ok, thanks” – but at least you’ve offered yourself to them.
And we do this not just to be good people, but because to be Christ-like is to walk alongside the broken and suffering.