R U OK day, our national mental health and suicide prevention day (September 13), reminds us all to ask our nearest and dearest how they are really genuinely doing in life. It is a simple thought provoking question which you may be surprised to discover someone you know (or even don’t know), isn’t mentally feeling that great about their life, or on the other hand there is no harm in asking anyway to find out they are doing great. Whatever it is, just ask because it is better to have asked than not.
Mental health is a difficult thing to measure as it is inside of all of us, and you can never truly understand what someone is going through, as often everyday people wear masks.
R U OK day is a good reminder of addressing what seems to be invisible and having one day dedicated to talk about our feelings and creating awareness to get the conversation flowing.
We need to drop the social stigma that men especially should be ‘tough’. According to Lifeline, every day “6 out of 8 Australian men lose their lives to suicide”. This is a shocking statistic and continues as men really do have trouble opening up.
Model and stylist Ellie Coker living in Melbourne tragically lost her brother, aged 31, to suicide last March and since then she has now become a strong advocate for the importance of R U OK day and mental health generally;
“no one should ever be alone. having lost my brother to suicide, I live with the weight of that every single day and I understand how difficult it can be for people to connect and to feel truly understood” – Ellie Coker
So, what can we all do?
- One of the most important things to do that we can all do is to simply listen.
- Use your human intuition and be empathetic enough to realise when something seems a bit off with a friend, relative or co-worker, for example.
- Be genuine in your approach and try not to come off as too invasive, don’t go ranting on about yourself in a vulnerable moment. If they don’t want to talk accept it and say you are there for them anyway and show you are happy to talk when they feel ready to do so.
As incredible as R U OK day truly day is for re-connecting, we should be asking the question daily to those around us, and even strangers if you have the courage. Sometimes people not only in your network are society’s most vulnerable and can feel the most comfortable speaking with a stranger like yourself. It can really change someone’s day and be a very powerful gesture knowing someone else cares and is willing to connect and help them feel understood, for not everyone may be as privileged as you to have that kind of network of support.
“Life can be fucking shit sometimes, and sadly too many people are blinded by this, struggling to see the beauty in this bloody complicated world, but I truly believe communication is the first step to seeing again. No matter who you are I will always be there to listen and do my best to support, please don’t be afraid of judgement. We’re all people just trying to work it out – people who are okay until we aren’t okay and no matter who we are, we all need a lift at one point or another. We need to listen more, to be kinder to each other, and to look past pre-conceived ideas of who a person is based on appearance, social structure or beliefs. You never know what a person has been through in their life to make them the way they are. If you’re struggling, you’re not alone and kindness isn’t as far away as you might think.” – Ellie Coker
People really do want to just talk most of the time and feel understood by someone, even a stranger. We really need more of these ‘real’ conversations happening, to be authentic and drop the masks we can so easily fall in to the trap of hiding behind.
I wanted to know what makes a stranger share their story so I asked Malvern hairdresser Maggie Mendez, 21, how much her customers reveal in the chair.
“I often can’t believe the stories I hear when I’m doing people’s hair. I know a lot of Mums who come to me and just want to talk to someone and spill all their troubles and secrets. It can be very surprising but I honestly don’t mind it. I am always happy to listen”.
Initially, I thought what an overshare of information to someone you don’t really know too well. However, it can sometimes be much easier to open up to someone you in fact don’t know too well on a more personal level, for any advice is generally going to be unbiased.
Finally and most importantly, once the connection has been made and the conversation has occurred, encourage action and keep in contact by checking-in regularly with the person.
With more than 7 billion people in the world, we all deserve to connect with each other through human kindness, live happily and all give each other a chance to be open without judgement or social stigmas. And even if you find yourself opening up to your hairdresser, go for it. Remember, it is okay to not be okay – all the time. A conversation could change a life.
Source: Impact Explained via Youtube/R U OK
If you just want to talk to someone, please do not hesitate to contact Lifeline 13 11 14.