There has never been a more important time to ask R U OK?
In an increasingly complex world, a conversation can often be the most effective way of making a real difference to someone around you.
2 February, 2022
“Our recent visits to the Audi dealerships gave us an opportunity to thank the Audi teams for their support, which makes an incredible difference as it allows us to travel around the country sharing the R U OK? message"
The stresses and challenges of modern life are many and varied, impacting each individual differently and at different times in their lives. Add to the ‘everyday pressures’ the ongoing and ever-changing situation around COVID-19 and daily challenges and number of people affected by them only increases.
But while circumstances may often seem to be beyond an individual’s control, organisations like R U OK? Demonstrate that the simple act of talking to those around can have an extraordinary effect on outlook and outcomes.
Since 2017, the Audi Foundation has proudly partnered with R U OK? – the harm prevention organisation demonstrating its ongoing dedication to opening up the conversation around mental health and encouraging people to spread the word and make a difference in their own circle of influence.
“It seems such an obvious message on the surface,” says Hayley Nissim, Audi Foundation Lead, “but by simply starting a conversation with a loved one, friend or colleague, you can have a tremendous positive effect on their outlook and wellbeing.”
According to Ruth Markham, Strategic Partnerships Manager for R U OK? getting connected and staying connected is one of the best things we can do for anyone at risk, and that includes connection within the work place.
“Our recent visits to the Audi dealerships gave us an opportunity to thank the Audi teams for their support, which makes an incredible difference as it allows us to travel around the country sharing the R U OK? message. But to also provide the dealerships with resources that they can use with their own staff, their families, their friends and their wider networks,” explains Markham.
Resources such as the How to ask R U O K? At Work booklet, and Tradie Cards provide practical tools and tips for family, friends and workmates to spot the signs that someone may be struggling, to empower them to spark a meaningful R U OK? conversation, and to help them find support if needed.
“When we genuinely ask, ‘are you okay?’ and are prepared to talk to a friend or colleague about how they’re feeling, we can often help someone who might be struggling to feel connected and supported long before they’re in crisis. More conversations about mental health and checking in are taking place in workplaces, and our visits with the Audi dealerships did give us the opportunity to chat to the staff, some of whom shared how difficult the last couple of years have been.”
R U OK? looks to show the community that if they’re well and able, they can help others. Yes, there is a role for governments and health service providers, but as a community, we have a role to play in suicide prevention and to help dispel the stigma still often associated with mental health.
“We might not be able to help someone to solve their problems, but we can certainly lend support while they obtain professional help, if required. To support someone is a choice that you can make,” says Markham.
While the increased and ever-changing challenges of the pandemic have continued to force us into isolation and away from physical connection, the message around starting a conversation that might save a life has never been more important, or more pertinent.
“The pandemic has magnified everyday pressures in so many ways,” says Nissim. “But even without the day-to-day contact we once took for granted, there are still so many ways to stay connected.”
“It has been two years of constant change,” Ruth Markham says. “People’s emotions have been up and down this entire time. On top of the pandemic, there are people struggling to contend with natural disasters like the drought, floods, and bushfires. And at the same time, we know people go through life’s ups and downs such as relationship issues, financial difficulties, and uncertainty around jobs.”
If indeed there are positives to come out of a global pandemic, we can safely say that in addition to broadening the forum around mental health, it’s placed the conversation at the top of the agenda and the importance of that cannot be underestimated.
“We might not be able to help someone to solve their problems, but we can certainly lend support while they obtain professional help, if required"
This year R U OK? Day is on Thursday 8th September, but the R U OK? message is year-round
“Mental health has come to the fore. People are talking about it; people are aware of it and it’s a good thing. Throughout the lockdowns, many of us have been on zoom meetings, and in most people’s office situations, having that view into someone else’s world through the zoom lens, has given everybody more of an insight into our real lives. It’s brought everybody’s other life into the workplace, and it’s been healthy in some senses,” says Markham.
“It’s very easy to see if someone is off their game online because they may have either disappeared from social media or they might be posting things that are just out of character. And sometimes it’s best to take that conversation offline, reach out and point out what you’ve noticed, like, ‘you haven’t seemed yourself lately’ or ‘I haven’t seen you around much’. If you point out to someone what you’ve noticed, it shows that you’re paying attention.”
“It’s so easy to jump in and want to fix problems and offer your suggestions, and sometimes you should only offer suggestions if they give you permission to. In many instances it’s just about listening and empathising. Be comfortable with silence in those conversations too, don’t feel like you’ve got to jump in and fill in the gaps. Slow down and listen and ask that person if there’s something you can do to help them.”
This year R U OK? Day is on Thursday 8th September, but the R U OK? message is year-round and extends to general connections and conversations.
“Our plan for 2022 is to continue to empower Australians with the tips and the tools to ask R U OK? and to give them the ability to navigate that conversation with someone they know who might be struggling. This is about being more aware of people in your world,” says Markham.
At the end of the day, no matter how complex life and its problems may seem, a simple conversation is often the most effective way towards finding a solution.
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