Mental health is a rocky road—some days I’m engaged in my work, exercising regularly, seeing my friends and other weeks I fall off the face of the earth, because just when you think everything is going okay: There. It. Is.
‘R U OK’ day is this Thursday, 13th September and it’s here to remind us that connecting with the people we care about begins with one simple question: are you okay?
The day’s mission is to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support people who are struggling. Each year, R U OK Day signifies a day of action devoted to reminding people to talk to family, friends and colleagues and ask the question in a meaningful way. Connecting and checking in frequently is one thing everyone can do to ensure that the people we love are coping and mentally healthy.
This year’s R U OK Day campaign sees organisations such as Headspace, Reach Out, Beyond Blue banding together and touring around regional and rural areas of Australia to reduce stigma and raise community understanding.
Senior Clinical Advisor for Headspace, Nick Duigan, spoke with me about the most prevalent issues facing young people today.
“The top five issues facing young people are anxiety, depression, anger, problems with families, school and study. But there are a huge number of difficulties such as drugs and alcohol, bullying, exam stress, relationship breakdowns— unfortunately these are all too common for young people these days.”
Within this age of social media, it might feel like we are connecting all the time; however, the establishing of real interpersonal connections with others is a decreasing practice. Young people exist predominantly online today with about 270,000-280,000 people contacting Headspace so far this year.
“Some research has identified that up to 1-2 hours per day of online use can be helpful or have no detrimental effects. We know some young people are spending 6-8 hours a day online that’s outside work or study—this is when a lot of the more troublesome consequences of online behaviour begin to come into play. Things that young people used to do—such as physical activity, being outdoors, participating in extracurricular activities—are no longer happening.” Duigan said.
However, it’s important to not discredit online forums or social media entirely, because it is why online platforms such as Headspace, R U OK, and Reach Out are so accessible for young people.
Regardless of the amount of people that contact these organisations each day, it’s important to be checking in with the people you love all the time, and encouraging open, non-judgmental conversations. For some, it might seem impossible or even embarrassing to go to a friend or family member and talk about how you’re feeling. Duigan says that for young people who are struggling and not sure whom to turn to, go to Headspace now.
“There are a number of resources you can find online that discuss common issues and busts a lot of myths and stereotypes relating to mental health. You can use free and anonymous resources, there’s the Kids Helpline, Reach Out, and several peer support models.” Nick said.
For those who have had a recent conversation with friend, or have been thinking about asking a friend or a family member if they’re okay, Duigan says that it’s important to remember that “you’re not expected to solve anything, but you should support and encourage them to access professional care, or share the concerns with another trusted person or adult.”
If someone in your circle has confided in you or disclosed private details about their mental health, some great questions you can ask your friend or family member are:
Would you like to get online and find something that might be useful?
Is there somebody within your world who could be useful to you like a trusted adult, parents, sibling, teacher, or coach?
Would you like to go see a GP together?
“It’s really important to build a support network around somebody, but to do it in a way that’s transparent, respectful and collaborative. Also, asking them permission if they can check up on the person regularly, asking them what they might need is a good idea, so it doesn’t become a one-off conversation.”
Check in with your friends, talk to your parents, and use the resources you have around you. Book an appointment with your school or university counsellor. Make an appointment with you local GP for a chat or ask if they can refer you to a psychologist. Go online and utilise platforms such as Headspace that are reliable and will ensure what you say is completely confidential
Organisations are available all year round, twenty-four hours a day. If you’re not feeling quite like yourself, you are not alone. Take the necessary steps needed to get you back on track.
Feeling scared and alone or are not sure where to go or what to do? Visit the websites below: