There are people who are still convinced that sex is the last taboo. But we proved them wrong in 2010 with La Ronde and Erotique. Sex is not the last taboo. Suicide is. On World Suicide Prevention Day (Saturday September 10th) and today, on R U OK? Day, I wonder what these events have meant for most of us. I’ve seen so many tweets and status updates today simply tagging or asking R U OK? I guess, like so many other specially named and set-aside days, these may also pass many by and life will go on for them, with all its usual stress, confusion, joy and gratefulness…or whatever. But for some, life doesn’t simply go on. It ends. It ends one day, by their own volition. Until we are directly affected by something, what do we do about it? What do we understand about it? How much do we care? Until my husband began employing people with “disabilities” (not a new idea but a wonderfully successful new venture, initiated by STEPS), I didn’t recognise the broad scope of that term. Until I met a child with cystic fibrosis (I already knew the family and she is the youngest child), I didn’t really understand what it was…or what it meant for her and her family. More on those issues in future posts. The most important message seems to me to be that suicide might just be preventable. I say might because of course there are those, like my mum, who truly believe that suicidal tendencies will eventually lead to the act no matter what friends, family and the authorities are able to do. Maybe, sadly, she’s right and those who want to end their lives will find a way to do so. But I can’t believe that. I prefer to subscribe to the other school of thought, that suicide is preventable and we can all do something to help. I don’t think this means we need to be heroes. It means we need to be better listeners. And we can probably learn to be more observant too. But sometimes there are no signs. Then what? We learn to let go of blame? Guilt? Anger? Helplessness? How? I can’t imagine. I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking. I’m asking you for your stories. I know. I know it’s been done. We are starting to hear more and more stories. And it’s about time. The cybersupport is starting to become easier to find and major organisations, such as Lifeline and Kids Helpline want the real stories told, to encourage others to speak out, to reach out and to realise that, like addiction and adoption, it’s okay to talk about contemplating taking your own life. Better to talk about it than to do it, I say. It’s hard to listen to the hard-core stuff of somebody’s heart (there are times when you’re just not in the mood). What I want to do is make some of these stories easier to hear. And perhaps too, easier to tell. I’m not diluting anything or prettying up the ugly truth but I want people to be able to hear these stories, specifically, local community stories on the Sunshine Coast. I also have an interest in Mt Isa stories and I have one – a Mt Isa story – that brought me to tears. It was the first story to be contributed to the project and it just may be the first one we tell on stage in this first series. The stage, any stage, is a space that is already special, already sacred and ready for stories. At the Australian Theatre Forum, currently happening at Brisbane’s Powerhouse, a discussion about what is theatre?brought up some interesting points, such as this:
“Theatre is being part of a process that is how I’d like the world to function.”
Without going too much into process and the nature of theatre-making (if you followed this blog during the making of La Ronde you would have gained an insight into our process), theatre is about sharing stories and creating relationships. And coffee. For us, theatre is largely about coffee and our conversations. The world has always functioned (or not) on the success (or not) of its relationships, stories and, if we’re looking at it in theatrical terms, its collaborative creative development, which almost always happens over coffee, you can be sure of it! While we’re a little off-track and making fresh coffee, let’s check the Twitter feed for #ATF_2011 and make a wish for WORLD PEACE.
So. What has theatre and coffee and Miss Congeniality got to do with suicide prevention? This is only my own little theory but I’m pretty convinced that if people are happy in this world they are less likely to want to leave it. What can you do? Sure, take a moment to ask R U OK? but what else you gonna’ do? Take more time than just a moment and have that coffee with somebody. Talk about stuff. Theatre. Football. Sex. Whatever makes you – and them – happy. Keep asking R U OK? and know that by asking, you’ve committed to hearing the answer. Remember, it may take more than a moment to really hear it.
For me, that is what World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day are all about. The fact that every day can be World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK? Day. We keep asking. We keep listening. We keep trying to make it easier for those who are having a hard time. And by doing so, we keep them with us a little longer.