How are you doing today? On Thursday Australia celebrated RU OK? Day. It is a wonderful day to shine a light on suicide prevention. On average, 8 Australians take their lives each day. 8 x 7 days x 52 weeks. You don’t have to be a mathematician to see there are a lot of lives lost to suicide. This is something I feel passionate about and would love to see this number decrease to zero. Zero lives lost to suicide. Not just in Australia, but in PNG my home country and globally.
These are not just numbers I am throwing around. These are real lives. 8 people with 8 families around Australia, 8 sets of friends, 8 sets of workplaces affected by lives lost. In PNG we don’t talk about mental illness. In PNG we throw around slang terms like “MC” which means mental case, “kava bada” which means big crazy or “half sense” meaning you are not all there in your mind. People fear they will be locked up and sent to the crazy ward at Laloki medical centre if they share they don’t feel well. Maybe that is what took me so long to actually reach out and say – “Hey, I am in a jam. I feel sad. Please help me”. Who knows.
What I have learned is that there is a mental illness spectrum of severe mental illness where you may need medication and to be hospitalised to mild depression where you still need treatment but may not need medication. I have learned that you can develop a tool kit to manage your mental health to live a fully and happy life where you don’t lose hope.
That is what motivates me to be a volunteer speaker and to advocate mental wellness. To share that it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help if you feel sad. It takes courage to reach out and we need to make space to share in a genuine way. We are in this amazing time of digital connectivity and online world. But, that does not mean that we can hang out on our phones and disconnect from real conversations with our workmates, with our families and with our friends. That we can sit around at dinnertime together and stare at our phones and update Facebook status. That’s why I love RU OK? Day.
Here are 4 steps to ak RU OK?to check in with those around you.
- Ask ‘Are you OK?’
- Listen. Carve out 5 – 10 minutes to listen.
- Encourage action. Inform someone about where they can go for support. See their local doctor, faith leader, online resources. There is always someone there for support.
- Check in and see how they are doing.
You don’t have to be a counsellor at all…but it’s about creating space for the people around you. Every day can be RU OK? Day.