ARE YOU OK? A conversation that can change a life

The strain on Australian household budgets as inflation mounts is the final reminder of how important it is to ask our loved ones, “Are you okay?” RU OK Day is an Australian invention where we are encouraged to proactively ask questions.

Perhaps because of the stoic history of this country, especially among older men, this day is critical to ensuring that people have the opportunity to voice their opinion when they are wrong.

Mental health is a crisis, there is no doubt about it. Suicide kills more than 3,000 Australians every year, leaving hundreds of thousands of secondary survivors. It is the number one cause of death for young Australians.


While there are many causes for mental health problems, economic hardship is a reliable predictor. If you can’t pay your bills, you can’t keep the lights on, the fridge stocked, and the kids undressed.

You will see that people who have held the levers of economic power, whether fiscal or monetary, will tell you about their responsibility regarding health outcomes. There is a certain amount of data that suggests that with every rate hike, a certain number of people will die by suicide. This is a critical time for mental health.

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It doesn’t have to be. We know from experience, especially as Australians who are also known for their generosity, that when someone raises their hand and says they are wrong, the community joins them.

Suddenly the lights come on because someone is covering the utility bill for a while. The fridge is stocked as neighboring families expand their Sunday night cooking to make sure there’s some left. And the children are dressed because there is a bag of donations on the sidewalk.

But this won’t happen unless someone says, “I’m not well.” And while some of us have been blessed with the initiative to say so, many of us need a helping hand. There is no single path to happiness in mental health. It is an individual journey for everyone, and like every journey it has its twists and turns.

If you’re offering help, it might not be helpful to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” because there are no limits to that. Instead, try saying, “I’m here for you and check in regularly.

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Don’t underestimate the happiness of an unexpected phone call to check in and say “hello” to the recipient. Relationships need maintenance, and that means making time and making time means effort. And with a little effort, you can bring good luck to the person you’re reaching out to.

Make sure to ask someone today “are you okay” and reach out to them in the coming weeks and months. This economic uncertainty will continue for some time to come. We all have to watch out for each other.

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