This year has been emotional and challenging in many ways. And while we’ve adapted to what life has thrown at us both professionally and personally, we believe it’s important to acknowledge it has impacted us and those around us.
R U OK? Day is a national day of action that reminds us all that every day is the day to ask, ‘Are you OK?’ if you notice someone you know struggling. The message for R U OK? Day 2020 is ‘There’s more to say after R U OK?’.
While we are all navigating the COVID-19 context, sometimes it is hard to know how others are coping. Our ARTD teams are spread across Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney so we can’t all see each other and day-to-day living looks different for different people. Our colleagues in Melbourne are experiencing continued lockdown, having to adhere to curfew and socially isolate.
These circumstances have made it even more important for us all to stay connected and support each other. But it can be hard to ask ‘Are you OK?’ – particularly if you don’t know someone well, you don’t know how to start the conversation or you’re unsure of what to do when someone says ‘No, I’m not OK.’
That is why, this year, we held a virtual morning tea to bring staff together to get to know each other better. Over Zoom, we asked each other questions like ‘What other city would you like to live in?’ and ‘What was your first job?’. And boy did some of the answers surprise us! We’re hoping knowing each other better will help everyone feel more comfortable asking ‘Are you OK?’
While this event did not explicitly educate staff on R U OK?’s four steps for asking someone if they are ok (ask, listen, encourage action and check in), staff have been involved in regular conversations about mental health and wellbeing – both in developing and through the implementation of our mental health and well-being strategy. During COVID-19, we have also scheduled monthly check-in sessions where we more explicitly ask how people are going, and are looking into mental health training for all staff.
However, on this day, given the importance of staying connected and the value in catching up with interstate colleagues, particularly those in Melbourne, an unstructured chat was what we needed.
And we weren’t wrong. We all had fun and appreciated having the time to come together, and were reminded that it’s always ok to ask ‘Are you OK?’. You don’t have to be an expert to support someone going through a tough time. You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgment and take the time to follow up with them. For more advice about how to ask, visit R U OK?’s website.