Why R U OK? Day is more important than ever

ON THE ROAD: Participants in the Conversation Convoy, which rolled into Newcastle last week.
ON THE ROAD: Participants in the Conversation Convoy, which rolled into Newcastle last week.

Today is R U OK? Day, a national day of action dedicated to reminding us to check in regularly with family, friends, team mates, neighbours and colleagues.

It is the 10th year of R U OK? Day, but it is no time to be complacent – the conversation is more important now than ever.

We live in a world where “busy” seems to be the new normal and worn with a badge of honour in some circles.

How often have you let a phone call go to voicemail or cancelled a coffee date because you felt too busy to fit anything else in?   

We live in a time where we often connect online more than offline – and while that is OK for many of us, don’t mistake a “like” on a friend’s Facebook page or a morning “streak” on Snapchat as a real connection.

R U OK? Day is a day that reminds us how important human connection is.

It is about strengthening our relationships and bridging the gap between caring about someone and letting them know that you are there for them when they need it.

It is not about sharing a celebrity post on Facebook or stuffing a yellow cupcake in your mouth, but it’s a reminder of how important it is to put ourselves in the space of others – so we have a better chance of noticing changes in a friend or family member’s behaviour, and they have a better chance of picking up if we are not OK.

You don’t need to be a trained professional or an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgement and to take the time to follow up with them.

There are many people in our community struggling at the moment, and connecting with others can make a real difference.

Do you know a small business owner who has been financially affected by local development?

A mate who has recently broken up with a partner?

A young person who is feeling stressed about exams, friends or life in general?

Sometimes people are fearful of asking R U OK? because they feel ill-equipped if the answer is “no, I’m not”.

The truth is, you don’t need to be a trained professional or an expert to support someone going through a tough time.

You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgement and to take the time to follow up with them.

So, here are the four steps to asking R U OK? and one extra step for our community in Newcastle.

Step one: Notice changes in someone’s behaviour and trust your gut instinct – ask R U OK?

Step two: Listen without judgement and don’t try to solve the problem. You don’t need to “fix” anything, just listen so they feel heard.

Step three: Encourage action, whether that is asking them who else they feel comfortable telling, making an appointment with their doctor or getting more information from a service online.

Step four: Check in. Follow-up with them tomorrow, or put a note in your diary to call them in one week.

Step five: Learn more. Sometimes people are not OK and they are thinking about suicide. It is important that we all have the confidence and the skills to navigate that conversation. Sign up for a one-hour online training program called QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer) for free this week by using the link below.

So, if there is someone that you’ve been thinking about and wondering how they are going – ring them, email them, see if they want to catch up for a coffee or a walk.

Our connection to others is what builds us up and keeps us strong.  Having people sit beside us when times are good and when times are bad can make all the difference.

Having the confidence to ask R U OK? and learning the skills on how to talk about suicide can make make a huge difference – to our friends, our family, our community.

  • For more information on R U OK? Day, go to: ruokday.com
  • To sign up for free QPR training, go to everymind.org.au/QPR
  • For national resources to support conversations about suicide, go to the #YouCanTalk campaign page lifeinmindaustralia.com.au/YouCanTalk
  • If you are not OK and need to talk – reach out to one of our 24/7 services who are always there to listen – Lifeline 13 11 14 Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

Jaelea Skehan is the director of Everymind