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RU Okay? Suicide Prevention Starts with a Question

According to the Australian Department of Health, almost half of all Australian adults will face a mental ill-health episode during their lifetime. And sadly, this bears out with suicide rates; suicide being the main cause of death in 2019 for Australians aged 15 to 49-years-old.

The other cost to our Australia’s society is the impact of mental ill-health on the economy being estimated to being up to $220 billion each year. *

In Australia, 9 September is the date we mark for the nation-wide mental health campaign RU Okay? This year, the RU Okay awareness campaign goes one step further – and asks:
Are they really OK?What is Mental Health?

Our mental health be it poor or positive, has a huge impact on every aspect of our life. The state of our mental health will affect our physical health, our behaviour, our work and relationships, as well as impacting the people around us. In other words, holistically, it is everything.

When we are enjoying positive mental health, we are experiencing a general state of wellbeing that empowers us to deal with life’s challenges. Good mental health can be defined as being resilient, dealing with life’s ups and downs, yet enjoying our life regardless, overall – while importantly, also connecting with others.

What Impacts Your Mental Health?

The state of your mental health can change as you go through a range of stages, ages and experiences in your life. Factors that impact can include biological consideration, such as your genes, brain chemistry or hormonal changes as well as experiencing trauma or abuse, or a major stress, such as financial or work-related stress.

Significant life changes can also impact your mental health, such as a relationship breakup, the death of a loved one, pregnancy and birth, or ageing, including the changes brought on by menopause.

How Your Mental Health Affects You

Your mental health affects every aspect of your life, that is; how you think, feel and act. There are many types of mental health conditions. These conditions come with a range of symptoms that can be short or long term, mild or severe.

Good Mental Health Can Help You:

  • Cope with the normal stresses of everyday life
  • Empower you to be productive both at work and in your personal life
  • Relate well with other people
  • Contribute to your community

People Living with Mental Ill-Health are at Higher Risk Of:

  • Having physical health issues
  • Being unemployed
  • Being homeless
  • Being in prison

How Do You Know If Someone is Not Okay?

  • With Psychologist, Jane Enter, First Light Healthcare

“If I know someone well, I can usually tell if they are not okay by their energy. They aren’t bubbly, they are shut down, they may also be irritable. While some of these behaviours can be normal, if it is more extreme, you notice. Their tone of voice and what they say may be different, as is their body language.

“Essentially, if someone you know well is not okay, they are energetically different.”

“Other things you might notice is the person will speak less, they don’t engage with you and they don’t make eye contact. Again, these would be behaviours that would be different and in contrast to how they would normally behave. I would be concerned if I noticed these changes in someone I knew well.

“How I would respond, is I would be observant, caring and interested and I would ask;
‘Hey – honestly, how are you?’”

“Lots of people have a pat answer to the question ‘are you okay?’, but I would make a point not to be fobbed off and I would take the time to sit with them. I may tell them what I have observed that concerns me in their behaviour.”

“But the most important thing I would do, is I would make the time for them. I would suggest sharing a cuppa, or initiate going for a walk with them. Essentially, I would make the space to listen – and let them know that I care.”

“Sadly, if someone is really determined to suicide, there are limits to what you can do. But you have to try.”

Common Risk Factors for Suicide

  • Previous suicide attempts
  • History of substance abuse
  • History of mental health conditions – depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD
  • Relationship problems – conflict with parents and / or romantic partners
  • Legal or disciplinary problems
  • Access to harmful means, such as medication or weapons
  • Recent death or suicide of a family member or a close friend
  • Ongoing exposure to bullying behaviour
  • Physical illness or disability

What to Do If You Believe Someone is Suicidal

  • Do not leave them alone
  • Initiate call a to a crisis support line together
  • Go with them to a hospital Emergency Department
  • Visit a community centre or a recovery centre together
  • If you believe their life is in immediate danger and / or you are finding the situation difficult to manage, call 000.

Where To Get Support:

  • Your General Practitioner
  • The R U OK? Initiative has released free resources to help you feel more confident asking friends and loved ones how they’re really going. You can download the resources, support and services at: https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp.
  • For support at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Supporting Your Mental Health

Mental Health is dynamic. We all have good days and bad, but if you are worried about your mental health, there are some practical things you can do and support that you can reach out for. While some of the most helpful strategies to improve your mental health are obvious and simple, sometimes we need reminding.

Tips to Help Boost Your Mental Wellbeing

Act Early if You Feel that Your Mental Health is Declining

Like any health issue, the sooner you take positive action to address your concerns, the easier it is to treat. By addressing mental health concerns early, you can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and you can start to recover that much sooner.

Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle

Eating nutritious food that nourishes your body is a great foundation. Certain foods can even improve your mood! Exercising is also extremely beneficial to your mental health.

Build a Routine that Works for You

If you’re mentally struggling, putting in place a routine can be really helpful. For instance, waking up and exercising first thing in the morning is that much easier when it is part of your routine. If you are really struggling, you can be gentle with yourself by starting with really small routines, such as making your bed when you get up.

Connect, Connect, Connect

One of the most profound ways to improve your mental wellbeing is to connect. From families and friends, to work colleagues and your community as a whole, you may be surprised just how much support there is for you when things are not feeling great.

It doesn’t matter if it you are connecting in person, or connecting by phone, or digitally, what really matters is honesty, openness and importantly, trust.

Empathy is one of the most powerful human emotions, setting us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Just knowing that you are not alone can be really comforting, especially when you feel isolated. And sometimes it can be really helpful to speak with someone wise, including a relevant professional.

Whatever form of human connection you reach out for, you should know that connection is the single best thing you can do when you are struggling with your mental health.

https://www.headtohealth.gov.au/

Sources:

*
Australian Department of Health
https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/mental-health-and-suicide-prevention

**RU Okay Australia
https://www.ruok.org.au

***Beyond Blue
https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

****Head to Health / Australian Government Department of Health