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April 12, 2012
LONG before Navy clearance
diver ABCD Paul de Gelder
was bitten by a shark in Sydney
Harbour in 2009, he wished his
mates had asked him "are you
After a bull shark severed his
right hand and right leg, ABCD de
Gelder's mates rallied around him
during his long recovery and reha-
bilitation, always asking "mate,
are you OK?"
Now, ABCD de Gelder will be
asking the same of others after
being named as an ambassador for
R U OK Day in September, which
is dedicated to suicide prevention.
"It took something as traumat-
ic as a near fatal attack for people
to start asking me if I was OK,"
But it was years earlier, when
everything was meant to be fine
that ABCD de Gelder actually
thought of taking his own life as
he wrestled with the pressures of
being a teenager.
"As a teenager I sometimes
asked myself if I was going to
commit suicide because I was so
overwhelmed by the challenges of
growing up," he said.
"Suicide was on my mind but I
don't think I would have actually
done it, even though many other
people have, which is a great trag-
The need to always enquire
about the mental well-being of
family, mates and loved ones is
why ABCD de Gelder jumped
at the opportunity to serve as an
ambassador for R U OK Day.
He said suicide awareness was
a major issue with the ADF that
was emphasised during annual
mandatory training, but the aware-
ness campaign must be ongoing
every day of the year.
"It's important that people
know where to get help when they
need it, which can be as simple as
talking to your mates about feel-
ing depressed or sad," he said.
"If I see a mate who is usually
happy but appears down in the
dumps I never hesitate to ask 'are
you OK', because it means they
have a friend who cares and wants
to help them."
The second Thursday of
September is R U OK Day. It's a
national day of action which aims
to prevent suicide by encourag-
ing Australians to connect with
someone they care about and help
stop little problems turning into
On that day people from all
backgrounds and walks of life are
urged to ask family, friends and
colleagues "are you OK?"
ABCD de Gelder said staying
connected with others was crucial
to our general health and well-
"Feeling isolated or hope-
less can contribute to depression
and other mental illnesses, which
can ultimately result in suicide.
Regular, meaningful conversa-
tions can protect those we know
and love," he said.
"It's so simple. In the time it
takes to have a coffee, you can
start a conversation that could
change, or even save a life."
For more information about R U OK
Day visit: http://www.ruokday.com.au/
TIME TO TALK:
ABCD Paul de
Gelder has taken
on the role as an
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