It is more important than ever to check in with family and friends this year. Lifting the mental burden can start with a simple question.
‘Are you okay?’
This can seem like a very simplistic question, particularly in the midst of a pandemic. But sometimes that it is the only thing needed to start to lift the mental burden someone may be feeling.
Social isolation can have a very negative effect on mental health, so at any time, but especially in times of adversity, we need meaningful connections and relationships with others. Just reaching out to others, showing that we are genuinely interested and care, can make a massive difference to that sense of isolation.
R U OK? Day, held annually on the second Thursday of September, was co-founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin to honour his father Barry Larkin, who died by suicide in 1995. Fittingly, this year the national campaign coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day.
In common with non-Indigenous men, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males are nearly three times more likely to take their own lives than Indigenous females. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males have some of the highest suicide rates in the world.
“Nationally, Indigenous people die from suicide at twice the rate of non-Indigenous people. This campaign comes at a critical time.” said Dr Vanessa Lee, who has chaired R U OK?’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group. The Stronger Together campaign centres around four community announcement videos, focusing on personalised stories of people who overcame tough times, and how the support of others got them through.
While there is arguably more information and awareness about mental health than ever before, it can still be challenging to broach a conversation about someone’s mental health. When is it the right time? And what if the person responds that they are not okay? The theme of this year’s R U OK? Day is focused on keeping the conversation going when someone says they are not okay.
‘We acknowledge that sometimes you might feel a little uncomfortable or awkward if someone says they’re not okay,’ R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton said. ‘That’s an understandable reaction and it’s why this year we’re reminding Australians there’s more to say after R U OK? and encouraging them to learn what to say next.
‘It’s important we know how to keep the conversation going, because a conversation really can change a life.’
The national campaign encourages people to: Ask – ‘Are you okay?’ Listen with an open mind – ‘I’m here to listen if you want to talk more’ and ‘Have you been feeling this way for a while?’ Encourage action – ‘Have you thought about speaking to your doctor about this?’ and ‘What do you think is a first step that would help you through this? Check in – ‘Just wanted to check in and see how you’re going?’ and ‘Have things improved or changed since we last spoke?’
If you or someone you know needs support, go to: ruok.org.au/findhelp