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  • Tamar Balkin

9th September Is "R U OK" Day. What Are You Going To Do?

"Sometimes in our lives We all have pain We all have sorrow For no one can fill Those of your needs that you won't let show You just call on me brother when you need a hand We all need somebody to lean on"

Lean On Me by Bill Withers (click here for the music)

Whilst we should not need an annual reminder to check up on each other, Thursday, September 8th is R U OK day in Australia and therefore it is always beneficial to pause and think about your own mental health and that of those around you.


"Mental health is about subjective well-being; the individuals’ perceptions and evaluations of their own lives in terms of their emotional state and their psychological and social functioning."

Nina Helen Mjøsund


Regular readers would be aware that the purpose of RUOK day is to raise awareness of mental illness and reduce the associated stigma. To be honest, despite all the open conversations about mental illness at work it saddens me that we still have a long way to go to ensure that people access the correct support early. Thus I feel it is important to blog every year, to ensure that no one becomes complacent.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare over 2 in 5 Australians aged 16–85 are estimated to have experienced a diagnosed mental illness at some time in their life, with 21.4%, having experienced a diagnosed mental illness in the previous 12 months. The most prevalent forms of mental illness in Australia are Depression, Anxiety and Substance use disorders.


Hiding in plain sight: There are people who experience severe forms of mental illness yet somehow hide it from view and ‘appear’ to be highly successful. Unfortunately, these individuals may delay seeking help until they reach a crisis or breaking point. According to researchers, they don’t seek help because they fear that they lack the time or prerogative to be unwell or receive treatment. In addition, as may be the case with high functioning anxiety, the anxiety has many positive ramifications including being focused at work; willing to help others when asked and having a busy social schedule. In fact, on the surface, their anxiety can be a driving, rather than a paralysing force.


Corey L. M. Keyes's model aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complexity of the interaction between well-being and mental health. Contrary to popular opinion he explains that: a person can be languishing without being mentally ill and a person can have a diagnosed mental illness and be flourishing. He found that flourishing individuals function better (e.g., fewer missed days of work) than those with moderate mental health, who in turn function better than languishing individuals – and this is true for individuals with a recent mental illness and for individuals free of a recent mental illness. What is languishing? When a person is languishing, they have low levels of subjective well-being, and they are not feeling good or functioning at their best. They may appear to live life as if they are just 'going through the motions'.

4 The dual-continua model. (Reproduced with permission from Keyes CLM. Mental Health as a Complete State: How the Salutogenic Perspective Completes the Picture. In: Bauer GF, Hämmig O, editors. Bridging Occupational, Organizational and Public Health: A Transdisciplinary Approach. London: Springer; 2014. p. 179-92 )


As portrayed in the video below, you don't need to be an expert to have an R U OK conversation.


What are your daily responsibilities?

  • Remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

  • Encourage early intervention for the well-being of all.

  • Talk to people you haven’t spoken to for a while and see how they are.

  • Get to know people at work so that you actually notice a change in their behaviour.

  • Notice a change in someone's behaviour and encourage them to get help.

  • Follow up on someone you have already spoken to.

Common reactions to being asked R U OK?

  • Silence

  • Denial

  • Anger

  • Sadness

  • Tears

  • Request for direct help from you

  • Sharing of their circumstances

  • Request for a referral from you

Important things to remember:

  • Your role is to encourage professional help not to provide it.

  • Remain empathic and non-judgemental.

  • People often don't realise their distress was so apparent and could be embarrassed or shocked that you noticed.

  • You may never know if someone actually gets help.

  • Don’t underestimate the positive impact of showing that you genuinely care.

  • Check in personally, regularly, and gently. eg "I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted."

How can a leader create a workplace where people will flourish?

Regular readers would know that I have written many blogs on how to enhance the workplace to support the well-being of all employees. The following blogs in particular are a useful guide:

Click here for the Blog page of my website and let me know what other blogs you found helpful.


Finally, we can only look after the mental health of others if we look after our own mental health. If you know in your gut that you are not feeling yourself, don't hesitate or wait till you are really languishing, act now and make an appointment to see your GP.

Australian sources of help

  • Mental health crisis team- 1800 011 511 (24 hours)

  • Doctor

  • Clinical psychologist

  • 000

The role of the clinical psychologist is to help people who are languishing move to flourishing.

Please, email me and tell me "What are you going to do differently this R U OK Day?"



Available on request.

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