Kyabram Free Press
There’s no better time to ask 'are you OK?'
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 beyondblue.org.au/ 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 coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au