Yesterday a friend of mine, an 8th grade teacher, was handed a note from a student. This note described their worry for a friend, another student in the class, who had shown them cuts on their arm and had talked about suicide. The pressure was too much. The note ended, “Please help.” My friend stepped in, and will be working with this student’s friend, keeping an eye on them, ensuring their safety — and, most importantly, opening an ongoing conversation about how this student is doing.
I’m also an avid reader of Post Secret, and several times the secrets published have included notes thanking teachers, friends, acquaintances, RAs, neighbors, even cashiers for unknowingly saving lives. Small interactions, a quick show of concern about another human, can remind those contemplating suicide that there is still goodness in the world, still connection with other people. Just asking the right question at the right time can keep people alive — and that question is simple.
“Are you okay?”
“By inspiring people to take the time to ask ‘are you ok?’ and listen, we can help people struggling with life feel connected long before they even think about suicide. It all comes down to regular, face-to-face, meaningful conversations about life. And asking ‘are you ok?’ is a great place to start,” notes the R U OK campaign.
This year, R U OK? is working with a new ambassador, who is set to travel Australia for the next year. Quentin, the ambassador, is intended to lead to the start of one million conversations centered around suicide prevention. Set to spur these talks with the mission’s eponymous question, Quentin takes an important form: he’s a question mark. Quentin is also a 3D printed Internet of Things device ready to be passed along in his million conversations in the style of the Olympic torch, passing from hand to hand on his mission.
Created for R U OK? with partner WPP AUNZ agency Fusion, and 3D modeled and produced by Convert Studios, Quentin’s journey began today and culminates on 2017’s R U OK? Day. Quentin, the 3D printed question mark with an Arduino for a heart, started his travels at Bondi Icebergs Sydney today with R U OK? ambassadors Wendell Sailor and Garth Wood, friends and athletes, as the first ‘torch bearers’. Starting with Sailor and Wood, Quentin is set to issue ‘challenges’ to his keepers, spurring face-to-face interactions with those they encounter.
“Technology is an amazing thing and has enabled us to create a ground-breaking and interactive way for people to reconnect with their family and friends. Our team has pushed the boundaries of 3D printing, mobile, SMS automation and micro-electronics to create a piece of interactive art that will help start a million conversations,” explained John Chaplin, Fusion Sydney’s managing director. “We can’t wait to see how far Quentin travels.”
Quentin’s translucent skin was designed via 3D printing and machining, allowing internal low-power LEDs to shine through with his messages. Keepers can interact with Quentin directly, shaking him to get a challenge, or by texting him from their phones.
The R U OK? website will publish Quentin’s exploits, from challenges issued to distance traveled to the number of keepers minding him. So far, he’s gone two kilometers and completed seven challenges in seven conversations. His journey can also be tracked by using hashtag #ruok365, where social media users can keep up with Quentin.
Those not accompanying Quentin directly can also get ‘challenges’ online to perform wherever they are (mine was “Start a dance party wherever you are” and it has been brightening up my office this afternoon).
“With millions of Australians already supporting R U OK? Day, we’re excited to challenge them to do more to stay connected and have regular, meaningful conversations. Quentin will help people to proactively reach out to someone they’ve not seen in a while and do more to maintain stronger relationships,” said Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis.
While the technology utilized in creating Quentin and logging his journey is important for getting word out, the eighth annual R U OK? Day is meant to drive home a bigger message: it’s not just about one tech-driven conversation ‘challenge’. Quentin’s journey is designed to kick off a million conversations, but that’s just a beginning. It isn’t about asking one question one time; to save lives, conversations should be a part of regular life. Above all, anyone asking, “Are you okay?” should be prepared for the answer they get, and ready to really talk. Discuss further over in the R U OK 3D Printed IoT Device forum at 3DPB.com.
Mental health is a concern worldwide. Australia saw an average of approximately 2,500 suicides annually between 2010 and 2014, while in the United States more than 42,000 people take their own lives every year. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also notes that for every suicide, there are 25 attempts. If you or someone you know is in danger of harming themselves, please start a conversation; ask if someone is okay, let someone know if you are not okay. In the United States, the 24-hour-a-day National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255; in Australia, phone Lifeline at 13 11 14. Suicide.org also provides contact numbers for international hotlines. We at 3DPrint.com are proud to see the technology we cover every day being used to help start conversations that can save lives.[Sources/Images: R U OK? / Marketing Mag / Campaign Asia]