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Workplace Happiness: R U OK? Day


It’s that time of year where we need to ask, “R U OK?”. It is a simple question that could change the lives of a close family member or friend, maybe even a stranger.

R U OK? Day was founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009, to honour his father who chose to leave this world in 1995. Gavin wanted to help those suffering from mental illness and protect families and friends from enduring the pain he had suffered.

Sadly, Gavin passed away in 2011 after a tough battle with cancer, but his legacy lives on.

Currently in Australia, one in five Australian’s will experience some form of mental illness. This may be depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar or eating disorders, just to name a few. Majority of cases occurring in 18-24 year olds.

One of the most concerning results of mental illness is suicide. Between 2010 and 2014, 2,577 people committed suicide each year. In 2014, 2,160 males and 704 females dies as a result of suicide. This equates to 7.8 deaths per day.

So how can you tell if someone is mentally ill?

According to experts at Mind Health Connect, there are nine key signs.
  1. A person seems worried or anxious. This can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, restlessness, diarrhoea and a racing mind.
  2. A person is depressed or unhappy. This includes losing interest in a hobby, lack of motivation and energy.
  3. Sudden mood swings and emotional outbursts.
  4. Sleep problems. This can include a lack of sleep or too much.
  5. Weight or appetite changes.
  6. A person becomes quiet and withdrawn when they otherwise wouldn’t be.
  7. Substance abuse including drugs and alcohol.
  8. They are feeling guilty or worthless.
  9. Changes in behaviour and feelings.
Some of these are easy to pick up as a friend or relative, however, sometimes you will need to ask. R U OK?’s website outlines these key steps to asking your mates this difficult question.
  1. Trust yourself. If your friend doesn’t seem normal to you, then there may be something wrong or maybe it’s nothing at all. But if you don’t ask you won’t know, so trust your instinct.
  2. Make sure you are ready to ask the tough question.
    • Are you willing to listen?
    • Do you have the time to give to them?
    • Do you know what to do if the answer is, ‘No, I’m not’?
    • Do you understand that it isn’t easy to fix these problems?
    • Are you in a private place?
  3. Ask the question
    • Be relaxed and don’t make it a big deal.
    • If they don’t want to talk, don’t push it. At least they know you are there for them.
    • Don’t judge.
    • Ask them how they’d like you to support them.
    • Be positive.
    • Encourage them to seek help.
    • Continue to check in over the next few weeks.
If you are concerned about a loved one, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. If life is in danger, contact 000.

There are plenty of resources available for workplaces. Check the out here - https://www.ruok.org.au/new-r-u-ok-at-work-resources

Written by Shine Lawyers on September 8, 2016. Last modified: September 6, 2018.

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