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  • Tamar Balkin

"R U OK"? How Do You Ask Today?

Annie, are you okay?

So, Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?

Annie, are you okay?

So, Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?

Annie, are you okay?

So, Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?

Annie, are you okay?

So, Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie?

Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson (click here for the music)

Whilst we should not need an annual reminder to check up on each other, September 9th 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.

You don’t need a degree in psychology to know that Covid 19 is having a significant impact on the mental health of many Australians. There has been a 6.5% increase in the Medicare referrals to clinical psychologists in Australia in the last 12 months.

“People were probably suffering one way or another before Covid but now it‘s bubbling over and that’s leading to this huge demand,”

Dr Seidler

As portrayed in the video below, it’s the small changes in people's behaviour that indicate that you need to take the time to have an R U OK conversation.

Click here for the 2021 R U OK video.

If you stop and think about it, why on earth would anyone they tell you really how they are feeling:

  • If you don’t often chat to your peers employees or colleagues about what is going on in their lives

  • If there aren’t clear policies and procedures in your organisation around mental health.

  • If you view mental health as always being negative.

  • If people with mental illness are shifted into the shadows and not spoken of.

  • If there are no examples of managing mental health in the workplace.

  • If people don’t understand that one can flourish with mental illness and can languish without a diagnosed mental illness.

  • If there are no proactive measures to create and maintain a psychologically safe and healthy workplace.

  • If physical safety is compromised.

  • If there is no culture of comprehensive wellbeing.


Social distancing, remote working and lockdowns may require a more conscious approach to observing the behaviour of others but should never serve as an excuse for not noticing when someone is taking strain.


What are your daily responsibilities ?

  • Create work environments where people can flourish.

  • Remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

  • Encourage early intervention for the wellbeing 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.

What actually happens after you say R U OK?

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."

Australian sources of help

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

  • Doctor

  • Clinical psychologist

  • 000

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.

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

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