Today is R U OK Day.
A day we are encouraged to start conversations that could change lives. Are you OK? Is anyone OK at the moment?
In this crazy upside down world of lockdowns and virus restrictions, are we even able to understand our emotional responses to what we are enduring?
The aim of R U OK is to prevent harm and suicide by developing skills for increasing confidence, motivation and help-seeking.
The fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (2017) explains that suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 44 years old, and accounts for one in every three deaths of young people aged 15 to 24.
By investing in personal relationships that identify distress, and connect people to appropriate supports, we can all work together to prevent people we know reaching a crisis.
Research and health policy demonstrate that a lack of understanding about holistic health, as well as stigma associated with experiencing mental health challenges, result in feelings of shame, fear, worthlessness, self-doubt and helplessness.
This renders people reluctant to reach out for help or speak honestly with friends and family about their emotional health and ability to cope when they are struggling.
For this reason, it is crucial that we have honest, stigma-free, non-discriminating conversations about wellbeing that acknowledge the interconnected nature of physical and mental health.
So what does it even mean to be OK? The World Health Organisation explain that health is more than the absence of disease, and that is means realising our abilities, coping with normal stresses, working productively and contributing to community.
How do we know when people aren't OK? Well, not being OK might look like withdrawing from friends and family, isolating, not eating, disengaging from sport, study or work and excessive crying.
It might mean people stop wanting to go places and do things, or that people no longer enjoy doing the things they used to love.
The theme for R U OK? Day this year is "Are they really OK?".
We are being reminded again about the importance of asking the difficult questions in order to look out for one another, and to not always take the first answer we are given. R U OK offer four steps to asking this question
1. Ask R U OK?
3. Encourage Action
4. Check In
This involves asking a sometimes difficult question, listening without judgement, encouraging people to see their GP or local mental health service and continuing to follow up with people as they recover.
Earlier this month Victoria's Chief Psychiatrist Dr Neil Coventry explained that feelings of confusion and uncertainty are normal reactions to lockdowns and that the "shadow pandemic" of the COVID virus is increased levels of anxiety and depression.
New data from NSW Health (2021) illustrates an alarming increase in the number of young people presenting to emergency departments for self-harm and suicidal ideation, with a 31 per cent increase from this time last year.
With home schooling disrupting many young people's learning, routine, social connections and family life, it isn't surprising that our children and youth are the hardest hit by lockdown.
Now, more than ever, we must remind young people that they are not alone, that support is available and conversations about thoughts and feelings are not to be shied away from.
This R U OK? Day year ReFrame youth mental health has partnered with Highland FM and Southern Highlands News to remind our local community that every day is a good day to ask R U OK?
Community Links Wellbeing provide free mental health support to anyone aged over 12 years of age living in the Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Shires.
This support is accessible, flexible and evidence-based, and delivered by local professional mental health clinicians, youth engagement workers, peer workers and low intensity cognitive behavioural therapy coaches.
For more information about these programs, or to complete a referral, please contact our intake team on 0455 104 104 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
This R U OK? Day ReFrame will be hosting a virtual pop-up event on the Zoom platform from 4pm to encourage these conversations with our young people aged 12 to 25.
To join the discussions online enter the meeting ID 270 965 3784 and the password KMLtn6 or call 0455 104 104 for support.
ReFrame is a free service for 12-25 year-olds in the Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Shires.
You can find more information about ReFrame at https://www.communitylinks.org.au/reframe/
Alice Richards is the Clinical Integration Manager at Community Links Wellbeing and works for the ReFrame youth mental health program.
We depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.