Why R U OK? Day should be every day of the year!
R U OK? Day has come and gone for another year and as a RUOK Ambassador I feel it’s so important to not only roll out wellness and wellbeing programs in your organisation, but to evaluate the culture being cultivated across the recruitment industry. Workplaces need to be asking staff all year round: “are you ok?”
For the past two years I have been an R U OK? Ambassador and speaking in workplaces across Australia one thing that has stood out to me - we need to make more effort to incorporate mental health and the message of R U OK? Day as a culture within the organisations.
The sad reality is every eight minutes in Australia, someone is making an attempt on their life and an average of eight people die each day to suicide, more than 3,300 a year.
One in four people will experience mental health illness at some point in their life.
Look around you and your team and think for a minute who may be struggling on your team right now. Is there anyone on your team you can reach out to and be a listening ear or support in their time of need?
A conversation which starts with a simple “are you okay?”can change the life of the person you are connecting with.
One thing that surprised me in my talks this year was that when I asked for a show of hands of who feels they would be equipped to have a conversation with someone they know struggling with mental health. Only a handful in a room of 50-plus people said they felt they could help someone struggling with life.
More positively, when asked if they had the information and resources such as being able to recognise when someone needs support and assistance, they said they would feel confident enough to reach out and be that support.
How to help
In each talk I give on this topic, we go through four steps to having a conversation with someone who is not ok and needing support.
Ask – R U OK? Find a time and place to ask the person in your own way are you ok?
Perhaps mention you have noticed they have not been themselves lately: “I noticed
you have been less chatty than usual how are you going?”
1. Listen without judgement
Take what they say to you seriously, don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Ask them open questions like “how do you feel about that?”, “how long have you felt that way?” Show that you have listened by checking they have understood. If they get angry or upset, stay calm and don’t take it personally. Let them know you are asking because you care, and acknowledge the times seem tough for them.
2. Encourage action
Help them think about one or two things that can be done to better manage the
situation. It might even be they take some time out for themselves or doing something fun or relaxing. “Ask what I can do to help you get through this?” or “how would you like me to support you”. If necessary, encourage them to see a doctor or other professional. This is particularly important if they have been struggling and down for many weeks. Offer to help them find the right person for them to talk too. Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times, but understand it make take a bit of time to find the right one.
3. Check in and follow up
Pop a reminder you diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they are really
struggling follow up sooner. Listen to your intuition on this to guide you how often
to connect with them. I often find that person pops in my mind when I need check in
with them. Say something like “I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to know you have been doing since we last spoke?” Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.
You can find more tips on providing support and having the right conversations on the R U OK? website
Why I do it
People ask me why I support R U OK so much so I thought I would share my story with you. There was a season in my life where I struggled with mental health issues as a teenager. I was bullied at school and never fit in having gone to eight schools,18 houses and five towns when I was a child.
At the age of 13. my mum was diagnosed with life threatening breast cancer and given three months to live. While she thankfully survived and is still with us 23 years later, it started me down a dark spiral where I started self-harming, was depressed and developed an eating disorder.
At the age of 15, things were so bad with the bullying at school and uncertainty in my
family, I couldn’t take it anymore and made an attempt on my life.
Thankfully I survived and am here today to share with you how important it is to reach out to friends or family around you if you know they are struggling with their own journey of mental health or feeling suicidal.
R U OK? Day encourages us all to have a role to play in helping a friend, colleague or family member struggling with mental health. We don’t need to be a qualified doctor or psychologist to show support and help to someone struggling with mental health.
If you are struggling with mental health and you're thinking of leaving this world, hold on don’t give up; I know the pain of living is overwhelming, but learning to live through the pain is possible and this world will only hurt more without you.
I’ve learnt the bravest choice is to stay and LIVE and not give up. If you can’t stay for you, look around you and stay for those in your world that love and care about you.
They need you, we need you, and the world won’t be the same without you in it.
Remember no season in life is forever; you or someone you know might be going through a season of winter but remember spring is coming.
If you or someone you know is struggling with life reach out to the following numbers
Life Line 13 11 14
Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
Suicide call back service 1300 659 467