You might have seen posters about it on campus or glanced over it on social media, but R U OK? Day, occurring on September 12, promotes a vital message that we should all heed.
For those not initiated to the modern lingo, R U OK? is a shortened form for ‘Are you okay?’. R U OK? Day is a day dedicated to combating the stigma associated with mental health by getting people talking. Its overall goal is to reduce suicide rates while also raising awareness of mental health services for those who may need to them.
Founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009, the day is a tribute to his father, Barry, who died by suicide after battling depression. Barry’s death deeply impacted on his friends and family, leaving them with many unanswered questions. Searching for a means that could help prevent the tragedy of suicide playing out in other families, Gavin arrived at a campaign focused on the simple but powerful question — R U OK?
According to Beyond Blue, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15-24. With the rate of young people suffering a depressive disorder steadily increasing, the R U OK? campaign is particularly relevant to university students.
Alex Thorpe works as the UniSA Program Coordinator for Batyr — a not-for-profit organisation that aims to change the outlook on mental health. Its goal is to reduce the stigma and shame that sufferers sometimes experience and increase the rate at which people reach out for support.
As Program Coordinator, Alex manages the relationship with UniSA, running 25 mental health awareness programs and, with a six-member council, helps out at university events such as Unitopia and Campus Fair Day.
Having studied psychology and been involved in Headspace and other not-for-profit initiatives around Australia, Alex explains that R U OK?
“Checking in hopefully relieves any stresses or pressures that may be going on and gives us a chance to be there for our friends and help them if needed.”
“Ultimately though, it’s about more than a ‘day’. It’s about creating awareness of that day and awareness of that conversation and really asking how they are doing. Are you okay — are you doing alright?”
So what should we be looking for if we think someone close to us is struggling?
“The biggest thing is
“Changes in sleep, changes in eating, too much eating or not enough. Someone normally not aggressive becoming agitated.”
If a student is in a crisis, Alex explains that, first and foremost, they should be calling Lifeline and it is something anyone could do
“If it’s something less severe and not quite at that point, university counselling services are free and generally accessible. You can book ahead of time or crisis appointments are also available if things are really bad.”
While R U OK?
Alex advises that it is important to make sure you are in a good place first to ask someone else if they are okay.
“It doesn’t have to happen on that day. If you’re having a bad day or a bad week, maybe wait until you are feeling better and
UniSA will be holding R U OK? Day events across two campuses this year and Batyr will be active at both events. The Mawson Lakes Campus event will be held in the GP Courtyard on Wednesday 11 September and the Magill Campus event will be held in the A Building’s Student Lounge on Thursday 12 September, both from 12pm ’til 2pm.
There will be the hot chips, great vibes, comfy seats, and all the smiles so bring a mate, share some chips, and start a conversation.
If you or a friend are in need of personal support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
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