It can be a difficult question, but asking “R U Ok?” can be the first step in helping someone in emotional distress. Today is R U Ok? Day, an opportunity for us to check in with the people in our lives, and to put a spotlight on the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention.
Now more than ever it is important to check in with our mates and loved ones. In the wake of several lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, travel restrictions and no foreseeable end to the COVID-19 saga, the effects of social isolation are reaching everyone.
While Australians in rural communities enjoy higher life satisfaction than those in metropolitan areas*, within our communities the people facing mental health challenges can really suffer. Australian suicide rates are 67 per cent higher in rural and regional communities than in capital cities**. While the causes of suicide are complex, in rural areas limited access to mental health services and stigma can be contributing factors.
People who are struggling may feel ashamed of the headspace they are in, and shy away from avenues of support. Taking the first step for them by asking them how they are doing can let them know they are supported, and help them feel safe and seen.
It is important to remember that it is fine to ask “are you ok?” and not know what to say after that. You’re not expected to have all the answers, or to find a solution to the problems they’re facing. Just being there to listen and to help someone feel supported can make a huge difference to their state of mind. If someone is at risk of harming themselves, be prepared to stay with them until you can access crisis support (see links below).
After having a conversation, it may be helpful for you to suggest options for improving mental health. This can be as simple as planning a walk together, suggesting they speak to their GP, or helping them access an online resource to understand and address their situation (there are two free resources available at the end of this blog). It’s also important to follow up on any commitments you make when offering support.
A word from RUOK? Day…
Life’s ups and downs happen to all of us. Chances are someone you know might be struggling. Your genuine support can make a difference to whatever they are facing, big or small. So, don’t wait until someone’s visibly distressed or in crisis. Make a moment meaningful – ask them how they’re really going and be prepared to listen.
Managing Stress on the Farm
Managing Stress on the Farm is a free downloadable book that aims to help farmers, farming families, and agricultural workers to better understand the stress they may be feeling and take actionable steps to alleviate it. The book can be found here: Managing Stress on the Farm Book | National Centre for Farmer Health
Steering Straight aims to help farmers look beyond the endless cycle of tasks and provides guidance on reflection, planning for upcoming challenges, and preparing for action, with a strong focus on wellbeing. Steering Straight will help you to:
- Identify what activities are helpful and keep you feeling positive during tough times
- Achieve future goals, and break them down into manageable steps
- Know who you can call on for support when tackling a goal or a challenge
Steering Straight can be downloaded here: Mental Health 4 Ag | National Centre for Farmer Health
Lines to call if you or your loved one is in crisis:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
MensLine: 1300 78 99 78
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Written by the National Centre of Farmer Health for Rural Bank in celebration of RUOK? Day.