R U OK ?

By Joy Akrawi and Tayla Leavey:

Each year, approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental illness. One in four young Australians aged between 16-24 currently have a mental health condition[1]. Suicide is the leading cause of death within this age group and kills more young people than motor vehicle accidents. Approximately 27-35% of all deaths in the 15-25 age groups are caused by suicide, being the highest suicide rate amongst all age groups. These alarming statistics highlight the importance of raising awareness and encouraging meaningful communication about mental health and suicide prevention.

It was these statistics, coupled with his own personal experience with family suicide, that prompted Australian Gavin Larkin to found RU OK?, a not-for-profit organisation. After his father’s death due to suicide in 2005, Larkin decided he wanted to raise awareness and prevent other families from having to experience the same pain. This became the motivation that inspired the foundations of R U OK? Day.

R U OK? Day is now known as a national campaign to raise awareness of mental ill health and aid in the prevention of suicide. As you can see from the statistics above, this is an extremely important issue that needs to be addressed. R U OK? Day is a day in which we are encouraged to genuinely ask our friends, family or peers “R U OK?”.

But how effective is it really to ask R U OK?

The R U OK? Post Campaign Report (2014) found that “of respondents who asked someone if they were okay, 38% received a response that suggested the person was not okay. The majority of respondents who faced this issue talked with the person about why they were not okay (85%), and 87% of respondents also followed up with the person to ask how they were.” These statistics demonstrate the effectiveness of being involved in asking the simple question “R U OK?”. As this report shows, meaningful conversations provide a powerful way for people going through a difficult time to get the help and support they need.

This year’s R U OK? Day theme is “reconnect”. Having a good social network and being surrounded by people who love and care about you is proven to positively impact your mental health and wellbeing. Whether you do the asking or are being asked yourself, research shows that reaching out to friends and family leads to better mental health and wellbeing for everyone. So we are encouraging you to start a conversation with an old friend or family member that you have lost contact with to rebuild those connections. Or initiate a conversation with someone new and develop a friendship.

If you don’t know how to start a conversation with someone, why not show you care through your actions? Maybe go out for coffee, send a text, or even send them a postcard? This year your Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotions Team with the support of their Mental Health and Wellbeing Student Ambassadors, are giving you an opportunity to reconnect through a postcard message and have it sent anywhere across the world… FOR FREE! Whether you’re a student or staff member, take advantage of this opportunity to reconnect. Start a conversation that could change a life.
For the students and staff who will be on campus on R U OK Day, Thursday 8th of September, your Mental Health and Wellbeing Student Ambassadors and student volunteers will be running awesome activities and a pop-up stall in partnership with Campus Life. There will be many ways for you to Reconnect and ask R U OK? across all Western Sydney University campuses!

This is how you can get involved on your campus this year:

  • Host a morning/afternoon tea event! Be one of the first 20 student groups to register your event online and get a free R U OK? Day package! Please visit westernsydney.edu.au/ruokday for more information
  • Free food events held on each campus.
  • Get involved with chocolate meditation to practice mindfulness at the R U OK? Day stall.

Or try it on your own by visiting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUFu8BGLTlw

  • Pick up a post card at your R U OK? Day stall, write a message to an old friend – no matter where they are in the world or how long it has been since you have spoken – and we will send it for you.
  • Get to know the counsellors on your campus
  • Find out about other services provided in the community
  • Join our “Western Sydney U – Mental Health and Wellbeing” Facebook page and post your pics. Don’t forget to use the #WesternRUOK? hashtag!
  • Most importantly, ask your family, friends and colleagues “R U OK?”

If you have concerns about your mental health or wellbeing or the wellbeing of another student, please contact Student Support Services by calling 02 9852 5199 or sending an email to counselling@westernsydney.edu.au

To find out more about the Uni’s Counselling Service, visit: http://westernsydney.edu.au/counselling

For more information on RU OK? Day, visit: http://www.uws.edu.au/wellbeing_mentalhealth/wbmh/promoting_health/ru_ok_day

If you want to get involved with R U OK? Day (September 8) or the Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassador Program, contact Rowena Saheb, Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotions Coordinator: R.Saheb@westernsydney.edu.au or Erin Rutherford, Mental Health and Wellbeing Promotions Support Officer: E.Rutherford@westernsydney.edu.au

[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing

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