Are you ok?
It’s a question we are all being encouraged to ask of loved ones, especially on September 14 which is ’RU OK’ Day. The national campaign has been running since 2010 with the goal of helping to reduce the rates of suicide in this country. The initiative encourages all Australians to reconnect with someone they’ve lost touch with after research from the suicide prevention charity revealed a third of Aussies have unintentionally lost contact with at least four family members or friends.
The average life span of humans increased exponentially after the discovery of antibiotics and the understanding of how sanitation saved lives. We no longer die quickly from infection or other preventable diseases. However since then, a new way to die is steadily ramping up, and it is having an impact on life expectancy despite advances in medicine. Termed ‘deaths of despair’, these refer to deaths relating to suicide, drug overdose and alcohol.
According to a recent study ’Deaths of despair’ have risen around the world over the last 20 years. The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney has revealed there were 134,700 ‘deaths of despair’ in Australia between 2001 and 2018 and has recently begun a world first study over four years examining ‘deaths of despair’ headed by Dr Natasa Gisev. The landmark study will use health and social services datasets to examine all ‘deaths of despair’ in New South Wales. According to Dr Gisev ‘Many ‘deaths of despair’ are preventable given targeted and timely intervention.’
RU Ok Day attempts to prompt the population into ‘timely intervention’ by holding a national day of awareness, encouraging Australians to reach out to loved ones, particularly family and friends who have been out of sorts or not in contact for some time.
It’s too easy to let annoyances and disagreements get in the way of our relationships. But left too long, it can be hard to mend broken ties. Social media has its role to play here, it’s easy to feel connected to legions of people, and it is almost too easy to write ‘happy birthday’ or ‘congrats’ on someone’s Facebook wall, but how authentic are these connections and are they enough for someone going through a tough time?
The national day of action asks us all to check that friends and loved ones are indeed ok, seeking out lost connections with family and friends and re-establish relationships. The initiative also encourages us to make more time for the people we care about.
If you personally feel overwhelmed with negative emotions or helplessness do seek out support from family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or simply for someone to listen. Talking about stress with others helps us to sort through our thoughts and help to come up with solutions. Going for a walk with your pet pooch can also help to clear your head, and there is nothing like looking into those deep brown loving eyes knowing that you are their entire world.
Be supported by speaking to a Counsellor or your Doctor
There is no shame in speaking to a counsellor or your doctor if you are highly stressed, depressed or suffering from anxiety. Counsellors are qualified to listen and offer up support and solutions to give you back your power and confidence. Many workplaces and universities have free counselling services available and they have to treat everything you tell them as confidential. They are there to help you and will often help you to conquer your fears to move forward and feel empowered again.
- Take each day as it comes.
- If feeling overwhelmed try to take a moment to breathe slowly and deeply
- Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel to someone you know
- Try to stay positive and practise gratitude
For support at any time of the day or night call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To find out more about this excellent initiative visit ruok.org.au. If you have concerns about financial troubles give one of the friendly customer service staff from Australian Mutual Bank a call on 13 61 91, if necessary they can help refer you to a financial counsellor for extra support and guidance.
Alison Gallagher is a freelance writer, resourcefulness expert and entrepreneur. She has been featured in various publications including Stellar Magazine, Australian Health and Fitness Magazine, and Cleo Magazine. Alison is particularly passionate about sharing practical tips on how to live simply, sustainably and seasonally.