Every now and then I ask my friends from overseas what they’ve learnt from the ‘eloquently rich and diverse’ Australian language since they arrived.
Generally, there are the uniquely Aussie (this is one of the words!) phrases such as bogan, drop bears, and Maccas. We also try to shorten as many words as possible by adding an ‘o’ or ‘ies’ to the end; arvo, servo, vego, sunnies, boardies, mozzies, etc. A mate can be a best friend or a complete stranger, and of course the most valuable lesson is realising that thongs are something you wear on your feet.
Another interesting Australian quirk is that a simple ‘hey/hello/hi’ isn’t enough to greet someone. More often than not, we casually throw in ‘how are ya/you (depending on your mood)’, just because we can.
“Hey mate, how are ya” is a common Aussie way of say “Hi”.
I must admit, this ends up being more of a statement than an actual question. It’s just something we do without giving it all too much thought. It’s kind of like when we go out for ‘one drink’ on a sunny Sunday afternoon only to face work the next day with a hangover that causes us to swear off alcohol forever. Of course, it only ends up lasting until the next weekend.
So, what does any of this have to do with mental health, let alone RUOK Day?
Well, RUOK Day started in Australia. It’s a bit ironic. After all we are a nation that seems to ask how you are when we say hello. One would think this is the last place that needed a day to remind us to ask:
“Are you okay?”
Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite. Suicide is the number one killer of people aged 14-44. In Australia, 20% of the population suffers with a mental illness each year. Nearly half of the population will experience a mental illness at some stage in their lifetimes. Only 35% of people who suffer will seek professional help.
RUOK Day reminds us of the importance and power of asking a question. To stop and put down our phones, to look up at those around us, to care enough and make time to not just ask a question but to wait for an answer.
It reminds us that we are all human, we all have our moments. For some of us those moments are darker and last longer than others.
It reminds us that it’s okay to not be okay.
You don’t need to understand to ask, you don’t need to be afraid of what the answer might be. You don’t need to have the answers or any answers. There’s no need for advice or guidance. All you need is to have the kindness to ask a question. Then listen.
For those that are concerned and have someone in mind, it’s always best to be informed. Some good places that have great tips and information on having a conversation can be found at RUOK, Black Dog Institute, Beyond Blue, and Headspace.
Although today is RUOK Day, it’s important to remember that if you are concerned, then any day can be RUOK Day.
Asking a question can save a life, it can ease suffering, and it can give a glimmer a hope when everything feels hopeless.
Thank you to everyone that asked, but more importantly, thank you to everyone that listened.