Incontinence, Depression, and R U OK?

R U OK? day is a day to remind all Australians to stop and ask: R U OK?
It's something we can all do to keep communities strong.

Incontinence, Depression, and R U OK?

R U OK? day is a day to remind all Australians to stop and ask: R U OK? It's something we can all do to keep communities strong.

Gavin Larkin, the founder of R U OK?, knows only too well the impact of depression and suicide after losing his dad in 1995. Gavin’s dad, Barry took his own life leaving his family and friends devastated and with endless unanswerable questions.

Initially, Gavin only knew he wanted and needed to do something to assist in suicide prevention. In 2009 he decided to poise just one simple question to honour his dad and try to help other families and friends from enduring the pain that his loved ones live with.

That simple question was "R U OK?"

R U OK? is not just a question, it’s a powerful movement whose mission is to “inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life”.

R U OK? is a public health promotion charity. Together Gavin and producer Janina Nearn from ABC's Australian Story produced a documentary on this simple but effective solution to help connect with people on a level below the surface that we show every day.

Sadly, in 2011 Gavin died from cancer, but his legacy lives on in the work he started, and the movement grows every year.

We are stronger together

It is staggering to know that over 87% of Australians are aware of the R U OK? message, 62% have openly asked someone directly if something was troubling them within a month, 19% of respondents said they were not ok.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians between the age of 15-49 years old. It is the third leading cause of premature death from injury or disease. Sadly 1 in 8 Australians have contemplated taking their own life at some stage and 3000 Australians take their own lives each year.

What this tells us is depression and suicide have no boundaries. It doesn’t reflect on age, gender, demographic or region.

Incontinence and mental health

According to many reports, psychological disorders such as depression can be related to incontinence. Urge incontinence seems to be the major contributor to depression and both are often linked with conditions such as dementia, aging, and some neurological conditions.

Depression is often exacerbated, and individuals don’t easily discuss being incontinent with others and this frustration, anger, and disappointment leads to feelings of isolation and despair.

So what can we all do?

It's as simple as asking, really asking someone if they are ok, and if you feel their answer is robotic, look them in the eyes and say, “But how are you really?”. Listening is a big thing, don’t necessarily give advice but also show you are ready to listen and offer a shoulder.

Incontinence affects people in different ways, and we also manage the symptoms and how it affects us individually. Don’t overlook the impact it can have on some individuals. It might be because they are afraid to go out in case they can't find a toilet in time, or because they are worried about a bad smell.

The fear of "what if" can be debilitating.

So remember to always check in with your friends, family and loved ones, and ask “ R U OK?”

For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
For more information about R U OK?, visit their website:

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