Content warning: this post discusses mental health and suicide prevention.
September 10 is R U OK? Day. On this day, we are encouraged to check in on the psychological wellbeing of those around us. By asking ‘are you okay?’, we can hopefully give people an opportunity to talk about their feelings and seek support if they are struggling with their emotions.
A little about R U OK?
R U OK? was founded by Gavin Larkin and Janina Nearn, in the aftermath of the suicide of Gavin’s father. While collaborating on a documentary to raise awareness, the two realised that more was needed to bring attention to the importance of mental health. Larkin and Nearn felt that even the act of a simple conversation might have the potential to change a life, and so began the ongoing campaign of R U OK?. The goals of the campaign are:
- Boost our confidence to meaningfully connect and ask about life’s ups and downs
- Nurture our sense of responsibility to regularly connect and support others
- Strengthen our sense of belonging because we know people are there for us
- Be relevant, strong and dynamic
Taking part in R U OK? Day
We certainly have a responsibility to care for and support our friends, family, and colleagues. Everybody should have the opportunity to be heard, to feel supported, and to be empowered to seek and obtain professional help.
We also have a responsibility for our own psychological wellbeing, and should use September 10 to offer ourselves the opportunity to express our feelings, to check in on ourselves with openness and compassion.
We can start by being kind to ourselves and accept our emotional responses as they happen. If you feel an emotion, then it is there for a reason – it’s legitimate. Try not to judge or fight your feelings. Rather, understand what they are responding to and focus on those things you can control. Make choices that empower, and that take you where you are wanting to go.
Caring for your mental health
- Access the support services that are available to you, everybody needs support sometimes and those services we are encouraged to offer to our friends, family and colleagues are also available to us.
- Reach out, you do not have to wait. Connect with those around you, speak to somebody you trust and let them in to walk with you on your journey to wellbeing.
- Keep active and exercise. Exercise is not only protective of our wellbeing but is therapeutic.
- Look into and adopt new hobbies, create the opportunity to experience flow, let yourself be lost in your engagement.
- Engage in mindfulness, undertake formal mindfulness mediation or explore opportunities to incorporate mindfulness in your daily life.
- When you are able to, engage in activities you enjoy, especially when you are least motivated to do so. Try to overcome the reluctance to act, and you will reap the benefits. This is a situation where the old saying “the first step is hardest” holds absolutely true.
Seeking professional help
While these practices can help to manage the stress of day to day life, they are not always going to be enough. There are many services available through which you can connect with a mental health professional.
- If you are worried about someone you know, R U OK? has an online guide for getting the conversation started. Knowing how to check in on people isn’t just relevant for 10 September, but for every day of the year.
- Lifeline provides confidential crisis support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also resources available on the Lifeline website.
- Beyond Blue provides online and telephone support 24/7 too. Their comprehensive online resources offer information targeted at different demographics with further links to appropriate support services, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, LGBTIQA+ people and more.
- For UTS employees, the Employee Assistance Program, or EAP (UTS ID and password needed for login) provides professional and confidential wellbeing coaching, which also extends to close family members.
- The UTS Counselling Service offers a confidential counselling service to help with a wide range of personal, psychological, study-related and administrative difficulties.
Feature image by Finn on Unsplash.