R U OK? Day: How to help if someone’s not okay


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Photo: courtesy of R U OK?

Today is R U OK? Day, urging Australians to learn what to say if someone in their life tells them they’re not okay.

And with the pressures of the COVID-19 pendemic, it’s more important than ever to check in on your friends, family, neighbours or co-workers.

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“We’re encouraging everyone to learn that there’s more to say after R U OK? because a conversation really can change a life,” CEO Katherine Newton said.

“We’re calling on Australians who are well and able, to check in with someone, reach out and meaningfully ask are you OK? not just today but every day.

“This is about caring for someone in your world. It’s about looking out for your friends, your family, your colleagues, your neighbours.

“We need to be genuine when we ask R U OK?, to let people know we’re there to listen, that we won’t judge them and that people can find pathways to support and recovery when they’re struggling.”

To find out how to have these conversations, there are guides and information at the R U OK? Day website.

“Time is one of the most valuable things we can share with the people that we care about,” said Newton.

“When someone in your life is struggling it’s natural to ask them if they’re OK but it can sometimes be difficult to know what to say next.

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“Our free resources include a conversation guide to help people learn what to say after ‘Are you OK?’ and help break down any fears or concerns someone might feel when approaching a family member, friend or colleague who might be doing it tough.

“You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going.

“If you familiarise yourself with what to say after hearing ‘No, I’m not OK,’ you can show genuine intent and genuinely help someone access appropriate support long before they’re in crisis.”

R U OK? have also developed specific guides for LGBTIQ people, with the help of the National LGBTI Health Alliance. Find them on the website here.

Why R U OK? Day is important for LGBTIQ communities

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This year, R U OK? Day coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day.

National LGBTI Health Alliance CEO Nicky Bath said shining a light on suicide prevention is vital to save lives.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported 3,046 deaths by suicide in 2018. Globally, suicide is responsible for over 800,000 deaths.

Bath said 2020 has proved a particularly challenging year for queer communities.

Physical distancing measures, increased risk of social isolation and loneliness, closure of community and cultural spaces, and barriers to finding comfort and support from families of choice, can all impact mental health.

“World Suicide Prevention Day is a timely reminder to be aware of others around us who may be doing it tough,” Bath said.

“We can all make a difference in the lives of those who might be struggling by having regular, meaningful conversations and connecting in the best ways that we can amongst the challenges of COVID-19.”

Bath said LGBTIQ people still experience a higher risk of suicidal behaviours than non-LGBTIQ people.

This can be attributed to the impact of “minority stress” LGBTIQ people face. This includes experiences of discrimination, social exclusion, harassment and physical violence.

Bath said we still don’t know how many LGBTIQ people die by suicide each year.

“Australia urgently needs population-level data and accurate recording of deaths by suicide through counting LGBTIQ people.

“[This could be done by] improving data collection by coroners, as well as service level data to inform policy, service and program development.”

If you need support, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636. In an emergency, dial 000.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.