On September 13 this year, my home country, Australia took a day to stop, turn to their friends and family a simple question: ‘Are you ok?’
Since 2009, the second Thursday of September is a national day of action for mental health and suicide prevention, RUOK Day. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44, and it’s rising. Worldwide, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year – almost one person every 40 seconds.
Suicide is a complex and important issue and if you or someone you know may be dealing with it, please do reach out to the multitude of resources available online and offline to help you (like Beyond Blue).
And I’d be remiss to ignore some of the criticism that RUOK? has faced oversimplifying such an issue. But it does remind us of something important in dealing with mental health:
As big and daunting as tackling the mental health of ourselves and the people around us, taking the first step can often feel like the hardest. But it doesn’t have to be.
1. It starts with a conversation.
Dealing with your mental health can often feel isolating and scary. The first step is opening yourself up to talking about it with someone.
More than that, we want to be changing the conversation around mental health in general. It no longer has to be a thing that we’re ashamed about or should hide. Normalising the talk about mental health can make it feel less scary to deal with. It’s a plight that even has the royal approval.
2. It can be as simple as RUOK?
We often feel like we don’t know what to say that could help someone suffering from mental health problems. But sometimes, all they need is for someone to ask.
Just showing you’re open to the conversation with a question as simple as ‘are you ok?’ can be the outstretched hand they needed.
And then be open to what they say. Let them speak, listen without judgement and gently push back if they try to retreat away from you.
Check out the resources from RUOK on how to approach the question.
3. It doesn’t stop there.
Being the helping hand to someone doesn’t just stop with one conversation. Check in with them, encourage them to take action; let them know that you’ll always be the reliable person to turn to when they want to have that conversation.
4. It’s ok if you’re not ok.
In observing mental health days or months, or just bringing more mindfulness about mental health into our lives, it’s important to also check in with ourselves.
Being the support for others means also taking the helping hand from others. It’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to ask for help. We all have our struggles and our downturns. We all need to give ourselves a break sometimes with having all our stuff together.
But then turn it around. Build a support network or strategies that can make the bad times feel less bad each time.
But most importantly, find the plan that works for you. There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution to building up your mental health. But continuing that conversation and reaching out for help – whether it’s from people around you, online resources or healthcare professionals – you’re not alone in this.
So one last thing: are you ok?
I’m Tiff and I’m passionate about empowering people to tell their stories in meaningful and creative ways. A year ago, I quit my corporate job in Sydney, Australia to travel and pursue my own projects. Now, slow-travelling through Europe, I can’t imagine going back. As a writer, I love being able to share my stories and struggles with the emerging remote working community. I haven’t got it all figured out and constantly feel like I’m flying blind, but I’m excited to be giving myself the space to do so. You can find out more on my website, from Instagram or Twitter.
If you’re interested in sharing your story with us too, send us a DM on Instagram and tell us what you’d like to talk about. If you are a fit, we will forward you all details via email.