It's R U OK? Day today -- here's why you should ask someone if they are OK

Photo by Christian Vierig/WireImage/Getty Images

Up to 20% of suicides can be linked back to struggles in the workplace.

This figure is shocking. But there is so much that can be done to bring that number down.

‘R U OK?’ Those three little words could mean the difference between life and death for so many out there who are struggling.

Pedro Diaz. Photo: Supplied

Despite their smiles, or seemingly positive demeanour, many more people than we realise are struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

R U OK? Day is one for us to turn the tables on the stigma of the past and embrace those who are suffering, reassuring them that they’re not alone.

Having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early 90s, I have struggled with my mental health myself. Since then I have recovered fully and gained qualifications as a mental health clinician, worked in psychological injury management, and as a senior manager of a mental health organisation.

My experiences led me to establish the Workplace Mental Health Institute, as a platform to support, educate and inspire those who are struggling like I was.

My organisation, the Workplace Mental Health Institute, recently surveyed people from a range of industries across Australia. What we found is quite shocking.

We found that 70% of respondents said that if they were asked if they were okay by a friend, and they weren’t okay, that they would talk to their friend about their trouble. Btw, in my opinion, that leaves a troubling 30% of people that wouldn’t even talk to their friend! Something we must tackle as a nation.

While only 50% said that if asked “are you okay?” by their boss, that they would tell them the truth.

It’s time to call not just on friends, but on workplaces to take extra care in connecting with workers.

It is our responsibility to let our employees know that it is OKAY to NOT BE OKAY!

Over 50% of people will experience some sort of mental health issue at some point in their life.

That’s 42% MORE than those who have a mild case of asthma. So why should there still be a stigma surrounding mental health?

With the national suicide rate hitting eight deaths per day, much more needs to be done in all facets of life to let these people know that there is support out there.

For every death by suicide, as many as 30 people attempt to end their life.

The lives of these people and the pain for their loved ones are why campaigns such as ‘R U OK?’ Day are so immensely important.

Just as importantly, people need to be prepared for when the response is “no, I’m not okay”. Be fully present and ensure the person doesn’t feel judged; know where to direct them to for support and be compassionate.

The Workplace Mental Health Institute is committed to equipping leaders with the skills required to build the mental health of their teams, to keep them on track and performing sustainably and healthily.

Pedro Diaz is the CEO and founder of the Workplace Mental Health Institute. Guidance on how to support your team, resources and more are available here.

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