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The Huntress vs. The Headline: “Make Coffee. Check Email. Ask Workmates If They’re OK.”

September 15, 2011

Thursday! Traditionally my favourite day of the week, Thursday has been a bit lacking today. But to brighten my spirits there have been some fantastic headlines from our nation’s top read news providers. It has been a hard choice with so many sensational wonders to choose from, but the takers of today’s prizes are The Courier Mail’s “Dick Pratt’s Ex Strips Off The Latex”, The Herald Sun’s “Gordon Ramsay’s Dwarf Porn Twin Dies” and without a question my absolute favourite from PerthNow “What A Shock: Sandilands Has No Talent”.

It’s not exactly news, but it was still good to get the message out there, just in case one or two people were still mistaken.

Today’s news headline of the day is also about promoting a worthwhile message for a very important cause. Today, Thursday the 15th of September, is national ‘R U OK?’ day, a mental health promotional day that encourages us to check in with family, friends or colleagues and simply ask the question ‘are you ok?’. Gordon Parker, the author of today’s headline, notes that 1 in 5 Australian people will suffer from some kind of clinical depression or bipolar disorder over the course of their lifetime. For those who are not afflicted it is likely that one or more of their family members, friends or colleagues have been touched by the ‘Black Dog’, but for some strange reason, as a society, we continue to stigmatise people who suffer from a mental illness.

Mr. Parker makes an interesting comment within his article; he has been made aware of people who have been committed to psychiatric units in hospital to receive much needed treatment for their condition. Some of these patients “never receive visitors, letters of support or flowers, while if in the general hospital they would have visitors aplenty and overflowing vases”; this is a sad indication of how we treat those with mental illness. “R U OK?” day is seeking to reduce the stigma associated with mood disorders, which in turn makes it is easier for people to seek help and assistance for mental illness and has the futher benefit of reducing the suicide rate in Australia. It’s amazing how three little words and an ear can offer such hope and save lives.

I do have my own little “R U OK?” story, even if it is nowhere near as impressive as the work of Don Ritchie. I was at the local school, waiting to pick my son up from his classroom when I noticed a woman pushing a little girl on the swings with tears streaming down her face. You could see that it was taking all her strength to keep pushing that swing and not completely break down. I stopped and turned to see if anyone was with this woman, but she appeared to be completely alone in every sense – and every other parent in that playground was giving it their best effort to not ‘notice’ this woman, even though it was plainly obvious she was suffering. I walked over to her and simply said “Excuse me, I just have to ask, are you OK?”. She replied “Thank you, but I’m fine”. It was not hard to see she was not ‘fine’ at all and I told her that it didn’t seem she was ‘fine’. This lady sobbed and sobbed and told me the most extraordinary story of her young son battling cancer, her young daughter being unwell and all her family troubles. She seemed to have such little family support and was desperately trying to be a pillar of strength, but yet was having her heart torn apart by the world that was crumbling around her. I was fortunate enough to be able to give her my time to listen to her problems, offer my empathy and reassure her that things would change. I was also in a position to be able to stay in touch with this lady over the weeks and ensure that she knew I was available to listen if she needed it. I don’t think we ever spoke much ever again but that fateful day she needed someone just to ask “are you ok?” and seemed so grateful for it.

So, if you have the opportunity today, ask someone “R U OK?” If not today, do it tomorrow, or anytime at all – any day is a good day to save a life.

And before I forget. Are you OK?


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  1. Chris permalink

    Aside from this post of yours, no-one asked me if I was okay. Not one person!
    Have I been too secretive about my depression, to the world in general?
    Or was the day a bit of a flop?

  2. It’s a shame Chris, I’m sorry that no one took the time to ask if you’re ok. Hopefully an outcome of this years high profile ‘R U OK?” day is that it becomes more normal to ask people day to day if they’re ok. The more we talk about depression and other mood disorders the less awkward people will feel talking about this stuff, which is still considered to be taboo to discuss. So…are you ok?

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