R U OK? Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, “Are you ok?” and support those struggling. With growing awareness about our mental health crisis, our responsibility to look after those around us are more important than ever. It is up to all of us be there for those who are suffering.

While it would be easy to blame the workplace, economic crises, or specific large issues (ie. climate change) for these connections, the cause goes much deeper than that. These factors all have one common thread - our culture. Due to our ‘market fundamentalist culture’ to produce and consume at all costs, we are turned into economic beings above all else - ones whose sole purpose is to be economically competitive and to consume. Consumerism replaces the things that nurture happiness - in particular our friends and family - in turn leaving us feeling unhappy.

As employers or business owners it is crucial to be aware of any situation that may pose as a risk to your  employees’ health and well-being; but any potential flow-on affects to your other employees and the overall business.   As an employer, manager or even a colleague, it is helpful to   be alert and capable of identifying the signs of someone struggling. Perhaps your fellow staff seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves. Trust that gut instinct and act on it. Your responsibility is not only to the task at hand, but to ensure the well-being of all your team  including their mental state.

R U OK Day is about raising awareness and overcoming the stigma of mental health for all of us, not just those of us who are already dealing with depression or anxiety or any other type of mental health issue.

A conversation can change a life. By focusing on togetherness, lets take this step forward to support each other, whether it is sharing a conversation or supporting a thought process, being an outlet or just being present.

By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open-up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow our conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load.

If they are ok, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask. Be prepared for the conversation by being in a good headspace, ready to listen and give them the time needed. Remember, you won’t have all the answers and that’s OK. Encourage growth and acknowledgement of the issue at hand; don’t forget about it, follow up is just as important.

Mental Health is an important  issue, and one that we must face up to.  Here, at the MTA, the solutions are re-imagining what is important to us, a shift in the values that underpin how we work together, and recognising the importance of having the ongoing conversations.

For more support and how information on how to get involved head to: https://www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask

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