Health & Wellbeing

It’s okay to not be okay

This R U OK? Day, Monique Smith dispels some mental health myths and has some advice on how to ask “Are you okay?”

September 13 is national R U OK? Day and it is a call to action, prompting people to check in with their loved ones, especially those who seem to be struggling.

The day aims to raise more awareness for mental illness, by reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask, “Are you okay?”

According to the R U OK? website, there are four key steps you can take to start a conversation that could change a life. These include: Ask, listen, encourage action, and check in.

Dr Emma Kerr is a Clinical Psychologist working as a student counsellor and an online counsellor at the University of Newcastle and she believes it is key to choose the right time and place before asking someone if they are okay.

“Sometimes it can help to mention changes you have seen in the person’s behaviour,” said Dr Kerr. “From there, you can ask them if there is something on their mind.”

Once you have determined that the person is not okay, it is important to encourage them to connect with support. This could include asking them if there is something you can do to help, or suggest they speak to a counsellor. You could even offer to go with them to their first appointment.

“If someone says that they’re not okay, you should focus on listening and asking questions, rather than offering suggestions or answers,” said Dr Kerr.

Mental Health Myths

Mental Health is a complex topic and it is one that some people struggle to fully understand. As a result, there are a lot of mental health myths. It is important to understand the facts so you can better understand how to help those around you, or even yourself.

According to Dr Kerr, the three main mental health myths include:

1. ‘It won’t happen to me’
2. ‘You need to seem really unwell in order to seek help from a counsellor or psychologist’
3. ‘Talking about suicide is a bad idea, as it might be interpreted as encouragement’

In regards to the first myth, each year, one in five Australians will experience a mental health problem, with the risk of developing a mental illness being the greatest from the ages 18 to 24. With the right combination of factors, such as relationship breakdown, grief, financial stress, or health issues, it can happen to anyone.

The second myth is an important one to understand, as this belief can prevent many people from seeking help. Dr Kerr summed it up well when she said, “no problem is too small.”

In fact, it is actually considered better to treat problems before they get bigger, and counsellors and psychologists will see people with a huge range of concerns.

Finally, the stigma surrounding suicide can make those considering it feel isolated, which is why R U OK? Day is so important. It opens up much-needed conversation surrounding mental health.

Talking about suicide can give those considering it other options or time to rethink it, and it can give them a sense of connection and belonging. Sometimes, finding someone who cares can be enough to help.

Detecting signs

It’s not always easy to notice when someone is struggling, but there are some signs to look out for. These can include withdrawal from social contact, an increase in drug or alcohol use, lack of interest in activities the person once enjoyed, and a tendency for someone to think of themselves as a failure or to blame themselves for everything.

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are free counselling services available on campus, including online counselling, such as Skye drop-in sessions. Other options include speaking to your GP, as they can give you a mental health plan to see a private psychologist.

For more information about how to ask someone if they are okay, follow:

For more information about available counselling and support services at UON, follow:

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Images: R U OK?, via

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