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  • Tamar Balkin

What do you say after "R U OK"?

Almost half of all Australians aged 16 to 85 years (7.3 million people) will experience mental illness at some point in their life.

Today in Australia it is R U OK Day, our national day of action when we remind Australians that every day is the day to ask, “Are you OK?” if someone in your world is struggling with life’s ups and downs.

What are your daily responsibilities ?

  • Create work environments where people can flourish.

  • Remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

  • 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

All Doctors and Psychologists now provide telephone and/or online consultations.

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

  • Doctor

  • Clinical psychologist (Please contact me if you need recommendations)

  • 000

My photo does not adequately capture the experience of entering lobby of Chifley Tower in Sydney, and viewing the images of Chifley business leaders who are sharing their experiences and strategies to keep conversations happening and destigmatise mental health. I encourage you to visit or log on to the website.

Regular readers will be familiar with my blog earlier this year on R U OK conversations and the mental health continuum.

Whilst the message has obviously not changed, it is heartwarming to see the changes in awareness and behaviour of all Australians.

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



Keyes, C.L.M (2005) Mental Illness and or Mental Health? Investigating axioms of the complete state model of health Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. ;73(3):539-48

Martin E.P. Seligman, April 2011 Happiness Is Not Enough Flourish: A New Theory of Positive Psychology (Archived Newsletter)

Westerhof, G, J, Keyes C.L.M (2010) Mental Illness and Mental Health: The Two Continua Model Across the Lifespan. Journal Of Adult Development 17(2): 110–119

Fisher, JR, Tran, TD, Hammargerg, K, Sastry, J, Nguyen, H, Rowe, H, Popplestone, S, Stocker, R, Stubber, C & Kirkman, M 2020, ‘Mental health of people in Australia in the first month of COVID-19 restrictions: a national survey’, The Medical Journal of Australia, p. 1.

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