Australians across the nation from Kangaroo Island to the Torres Strait, will today join the conversation to mark R U OK?Day, a National Day of Action and a reminder that every day is a day to ask your friends, family and colleagues, ‘are you OK?’.
Thousands of in person and virtual events and activities will be hosted by community groups, workplaces, schools, social and sports clubs and suicide prevention networks, to champion the message ‘Ask R U OK? No qualifications needed‘, and remind Australians they already have what it takes to support the people in their world who might be struggling with life’s ups and downs.
The ‘2022 R U OK?Day Virtual Event’, being streamed from midday AEST on 8 September, will feature personal stories and take the audience through the four steps of an R U OK? conversation (ALEC – Ask, Listen, Encourage action and Check in).
R U OK? Community Ambassador, Seryn Adams, 26, is passionate about the R U OK? message because of her own experience with depression and suicidal ideation. Ms Adams lives in regional New South Wales where she works as a Suicide Prevention Project Officer with the Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network.
“I’ve been really lucky to have people around me who have been able to recognise the signs when I have been struggling, and they’ve been willing to ask me the ‘are you OK?’ question,” said Ms Adams who struggled with being isolated and separated from her family.
“My Mum was able to recognise that I wasn’t myself, I wasn’t answering text messages, I wouldn’t pick up the phone, I wasn’t doing the normal things that I would,” explained Ms Adams. “She asked me a few times before I was willing to open up and say that I was really struggling and that I had been contemplating suicide.
“My Mum is not an expert, she had no experience with someone who had felt like this before and it must have been so confronting, her own daughter contemplating suicide,” said Ms Adams. “She talked me through all the practical things we could to do to get some more support and really encouraged me to speak to someone.”
‘Ask R U OK? No qualifications needed’ was conceived in response to research which found four in ten Australians think asking, ‘are you OK?’, might start a conversation better had with an expert.
“I’m not a psychologist or a counsellor. I’m someone with a lived experience and I know how the R U OK? question can save a life, that’s why I’m so passionate about it,” said Ms Adams. “When I talk to people now about how to ask the R U OK? question I remind them, you don’t have the be an expert, you just have to be there to listen and to support them through what they’re experiencing and encourage them to be able to seek some help.”
R U OK? CEO, Katherine Newton says the work of health professionals is vital however all of us can play a role in supporting those we care about.
“In recent months, we’ve been on the road in regional and rural communities hearing from Australians who are dealing with a range of life circumstances and there’s no doubt, many have been doing it tough,” says Katherine Newton, R U OK? CEO.
“Natural disasters, the ongoing impact of the pandemic, world conflicts, workforce shortages and the rising cost of living have added financial pressure and emotional strain,” said Ms Newton. “These pressures can sometimes feel overwhelming and out of our control but something we can always do, is genuinely reach out – have a conversation, take the time to really listen to the answer and lend support.
“R U OK?Day is our national annual reminder that we need to be thinking about how the people in our world really are, and the best way to look out for the people we care about, is to trust our gut when we see signs of change or struggle, and make time for regular meaningful conversations.” said Ms Newton.
This is confirmed by the research which found that when authentic, genuine R U OK? conversations are happening, more than 80% of people say they are making a positive difference.
The R U OK? Day 2022 message will feature across traditional and social media platforms while a wealth of resources for educators, communities and workplaces is available FREE to download from the R U OK? website at ruok.org.au.
A selection of R U OK? digital resources have also been translated for those whose first language is not English and there are also videos available in Auslan.
For schools, they are downloadable curriculum-based lesson plans for every year group with printable activity templates including print-and-go bunting, a mural builder, Conversation Bingo, colouring sheets and find-a-words. Videos and presentation decks are also available and for the staffroom there is a conversation guide for teachers and school leaders.
For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.