This year, the campaign is focused on trusting your gut, and trusting the signs. “Those signs can be subtle changes in verbal or non-verbal behaviour. You might spot a loved one is having unusual mood swings, changes in sleep, or a mate might be withdrawing from social situations like not turning up to sport training,” says R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton.
If you do spot someone struggling, ask them if they’re okay, listen and then encourage action.
Here, R U OK? ambassador, youth worker and former Bachelor contestant, Brooke Blurton, shares her advice for those dealing with mental health issues – and for the people around them…
Why is it so important to ask the question R U OK?
It’s not just the importance of asking R U OK, it’s the value of checking in with someone who you may have not heard from or maybe someone who you’ve noticed some change in their behaviour. I think the question is an opening line to a conversation that someone might not want to have but needs to have, they just don’t know how to reach out. It could be the question, to a conversation that saves someone’s life.
What do you want people to know about mental health?
I want people to not be afraid to talk about it. There is this huge stigma around mental health and this shame around it. I see it working with Young People. I want more people to be aware that it’s OK to reach out and get help and not to see it as a “burden.” I use the analogy around if you break your arm, you can’t just leave it. You need to go to the doctor and get help and get a cast and let it heal. It’s the same with your mental health, if you’re not feeling well with your mental health, you can’t just leave it, sometimes it needs support to heal and you need to access some help.
How have you been affected by mental health issues in your life?
I think everyone in some way has been exposed and/or affected by mental health, whether it be with your own personal experiences with anxiety or with close friends and family.
Personally, I have been exposed to it throughout my life and only until now in my professional life really understand the serious effects of someone with or has bad mental health or a serious mental health problem.
How can we help people who are struggling with their mental health?
I feel as a society, we could be doing a lot more to support more people who struggle with their mental health, but I could definitely go on a tangent about that!
If you have someone who is close to you that you are concerned about, I’d say the first thing to do is to check in with them, nothing formal, make it comfortable and ask R U OK, is everything alright? Because I’m sure if someone trusts you and believes that you are asking in a genuine and authentic nature. I’m almost certain they will let you know if anything is going on and if they don’t and you’re still concerned. It’s important to follow up. Don’t pest them in anyway but make it comfortable for them for when they need to talk, that you’re there and you’ll listen. Listening is important too.
What do you do in your personal life to stay mentally healthy?
Exercise is a huge factor in how I stay mentally healthy. Exercise is therapy for me. I completely zone out and focus on one thing. Playing sport also keeps me active, so that has helped me stay on top of my mental health, every time I feel overwhelmed or stressed, I go for a walk or kick the footy. It always makes me feel better to get out of the house or workplace for a bit. I find doing the little things to make you feel better, can change your whole mood. Like treating yourself or planning a date night, something a little spontaneous but nice.
What advice would you give those going through a hard time?
Reach out…and know that you’re not alone in the process. Don’t be ashamed about reaching out or asking for help. Find a friend that you can trust and confide in and let them know what’s going on.
For more information, visit: ruok.org.au