I am very grateful for organisations such as R U OK here in Australia for raising awareness of mental health issues.

If you aren't familiar, R U OK aims to help prevent suicide by raising awareness, particularly on R U OK day, which was just last week.

The concept is this - ask someone if they are OK and it may just be the conversation that the person needed to open up about silent struggles they are dealing with.

The challenge with asking if someone is OK is whether we are willing to hear the answer.

If we are to care for those with mental illness, we need to be willing to open ourselves up to some of the discomfort that they are going through themselves. It is not enough to ask the question and then not care for the answer.

Caring for those with mental illness and walking beside them means that you will go on a journey that will be brutally raw at times. It is not always a pleasant dynamic and rarely will it carry the superficial 'niceness' that we know how to do so well. No, it will be gritty.

But it will be worth it.

Walking beside somebody with unconditional love is a wonderful thing. Often it's hard, but showing that you still love someone in the midst of their mental illness is one of the greatest gifts you can give.

It's exactly the kind of love that God shows us - patient, unconditional, forgiving. If we are only up for asking a question because it makes us feel good about ourselves, then we have to think again.

If we're willing to ask the question, 'R U OK', we must be willing to hear the answer. And that may lead to a difficult but beautiful kind of loving journey.

Chris Cipollone