By Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services' Managing Director
R U OK? Day encourages us to check in with our friends, family and loved ones about how we’re really doing.
In a time where there seems to be more dividing us than ever before, this day is about putting our beliefs, passions and views to the side, to allow us to be there for one another as people.
There’s no doubt the stresses of life feel compounded at the moment with varying and complex local, national and international factors at play, which is why it’s more important than ever to communicate our care, our humility, and our kindness to others.
It’s a time to step away from the politics of everyday life and step into our roles as considerate human beings.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics state one in five Australians (22%) reported their mental health in January 2021 as worse or much worse than before the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020.
The same research also found that since March 2020, 67% of Australians used one or more strategies to manage their mental health.
This year the theme for R U OK? Day is “Are they really ok” and encourages us to read beyond the initial response, which might conceal someone’s true feelings.
It can be difficult to admit that we’re struggling with something, and this year’s theme urges us to continue the conversation beyond the initial, “Are you okay?”.
While seeking professional help is important for serious or concerning mental health conditions, providing informal support to someone can give them an outlet to voice their troubles to a friend.
So, what can we do when someone says they aren’t okay?
Sometimes all people need is a safe space to talk openly and honestly, and all we really need to do is listen.
We don’t need to have a solution; we just need to let them know they’ve got someone on their side.
The R U OK? website offers informative tools to help us facilitate these conversations, which instruct us to ask, listen, encourage action, and then check in to see how they’re doing.
Before engaging in this kind of conversation their first suggestion is to check in with yourself first.
It’s equally important to make sure that you’re in the right headspace and have the time to engage in a meaningful conversation before beginning.
In my experience, it’s when we are unable to express our smaller stresses that they tend to build up and compound until all the small things have turned into a big problem.
Being a supportive ear for someone can prevent the little problems from becoming bigger issues.
R U OK? Day isn’t about becoming a professional counsellor, nor is it about taking on the problems of others; it’s about empowering connection and support, and letting others know that they are not alone. For more information visit ruok.org.au or, to seek professional advice, you can contact IMPACT’s Mental Health department on 07 4153 4233.