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Why actions speak louder than words this R U OK? Day

The R U OK? Day is a National Day of action in Australia, dedicated to reminding people to reach out and ask “are you okay?”. It’s on the 10th of September each year. More:

In a time of lockdowns and negative news at our fingertips, it’s more fitting than ever to ask, R U OK? We don’t need to dwell on the news that’s been, or the stories that we keep hearing, we’re all living through it.

Organisations like Lifeline are receiving record numbers in crisis calls. Calls have also jumped to 1800 RESPECT, the domestic violence hotline. Stats like these, and the latest modelling from the Brain and Mind Centre at The University of Sydney that predicts death by suicide to increase by 25% over the next five years as a result of the pandemic and its effects (such as unemployment), suggest we are not OK.

Not by a long shot are we OK. Those hit particularly hard, and the ones who have endured long and arduous lockdowns, like our colleagues in Melbourne, are not OK. While the majority realise lockdown is for the greater good, sometimes that’s hard to see – and that’s okay too. It’s okay to feel isolated and angry, it’s okay to feel scared and confused, whether you’re in lockdown or not. It’s also okay if you’ve not learnt a new language or logged onto a virtual yoga class and done nothing but order Uber eats and watched Netflix for a while.

For those that aren’t feeling OK, what can be done? This year the theme for R U OK? Day is, there’s more to say after R U OK? And we agree, it’s time to go beyond asking the question, it’s time to put your consideration of others into action. The action can be as big or as small as you have time for; if you feel like you don’t have time in your busy life, I’d implore you to find even a few minutes.

  • -Scroll through your phone and text anyone who’s in a lockdown area, separated from loved ones or who have lost their job as a result of the pandemic
  • -Go through your address book and send them a physical card or letter; or even an email
  • -Create a Spotify (or other streaming service) playlist with meaningful songs and share it
  • -Have a virtual dance party
  • -Donate blood
  • -Shop online with small businesses in rural areas or those hardest hit by the virus (such as Victoria)
  • -Buy dinner for someone and have it delivered
  • -Check in on your neighbours (physically or with a handwritten note)
  • -Get the R U OK? Message out via your social channels, via email, via conversations and let’s get as many people as possible asking – R U OK?

The onus is not only on individuals. Workplaces have had to pivot, to virtual working and to the even harder task of ensuring the wellbeing of colleagues from afar. There’s a difference between putting the message out that as a team leader or colleague you’re there to talk, and actually being available to talk. Again, its actions that need to happen. You don’t need to have amazing conversational skills, and you certainly don’t need to be comfortable with the conversations, but be available and listen.

Here in Australia, we launched a few initiatives on top of our existing programmes of support, which include:

  • An Employee Assistance Programme where colleagues can also access up to six counselling sessions each year
  • Monthly wellness sessions on a range of topics such as men’s health and managing time
  • Virtual coffees, cocktails and trivia sessions

And globally, we’ve seen the launch of a Mental Health First Aid training programme, awareness sessions and developing partnerships with organisations who can support our workplace wellbeing initiatives.

We provide colleagues with the opportunity to tell us how they feel, and we’ve provided financial assistance to help set up home office spaces as the lockdown has continued.

One of the great things is the delight in faces all round when our children and pets make guest appearances in work video calls.

We are all in this together. We will get through it. Please, use this R U OK? Day to check on your friends, your loved ones and your colleagues.

Australia specific resources

Remember, there are several sources available if you or your loved ones are not okay. You can call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. There are also great resources available on mental health, actions, stats and news on these websites: Lifeline, Black Dog Institute or at Kids Helpline.


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