Kyabram Free Press

There’s no better time to ask 'are you OK?'

- By Myles Peterson

Every day is a good day to check on the mental welfare of friends or family, but the annual RU OK? Day on Thursday, September 9, comes at a particular­ly salient time. With Kyabram suffering through another lockdown and many stuck at home missing the contact of loved ones, poor mental health has become an often silent symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite frequent misinforma­tion on social media, suicide rates have not risen during the pandemic according to data from the Victorian Coroner's Court, but lockdowns and the stress associated with COVID-19 was taking a considerab­le toll, chief health officer Professor Brett Sutton told reporters last month.

"My heart breaks, so many people's hearts break at the prospect of the sadness and the despair that people experience because of the challenges of lockdown," he said.

"There have been millions of people orphaned by coronaviru­s around the world. If there were an easy path here, we would choose it. The awful consequenc­es of lockdown are apparent to everyone — myself maybe more than most."

Thursday represents a call to reach out and check on those closest to us and even those we don’t know as well, according R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton.

“R U OK? is encouragin­g all Australian­s to pause and consider how the people in their world are really going, and to make asking ‘are you OK?’ a part of their everyday,” she said.

Those who appeared fine on the surface were some of the best people to ask the question of, according to Ms Newton.

“We want to emphasise that an R U OK? conversati­on is not only for when someone is visibly distressed or in crisis, and remind everyone that their support can make a difference for anyone who is struggling,” she said.

According to research conducted on the organisati­on's behalf in March by Kantar Public, asking the simple question could have a significan­t impact. Speaking to others about issues that were negatively impacting them made 80 per cent feel supported and cared about, 75 per cent more connected and 72 per cent reported feeling better about themselves, respondent­s said.

Psychologi­st Ann-maree Fardell Hartley said R U OK? could provide a range of tools to individual­s and organisati­ons to assist with the conversati­on.

“Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the people in their world feel connected and supported,” Ms Fardell Hartley said.

“The free tools and resources that R U OK? have available can help you build your confidence to support your friends, family and colleagues. You don’t have to be an expert, just a good friend and a great listener.”

▯ If you need assistance, or know someone who does, you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or via get-support or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

▯ You can also contact the Coronaviru­s Mental Wellbeing Support Service on 1800 512 348 or via coronaviru­

 ??  ?? Check in with others: R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton is calling on the community to ask the question this Thursday.
Check in with others: R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton is calling on the community to ask the question this Thursday.
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