The guest blogger of this week is UWA Public Health student, Sonya Barkovic. Sonya is currently working with the Health Promotion and Education and Training teams at Women’s Health & Family Services as part of her university course. Maintaining health and a positive wellbeing has always been of great importance in her personal life. Once she had the opportunity to study at university, she realised that advocating for and assisting others in achieving a healthy and happy lifestyle was something she wanted to learn how to implement. She was asked by the WHFS to put her passion into action and discuss the importance of R U OK? Day to her. .

On the 12th of September, ask someone if they are okay. Whether it’s a work colleague, friend, family member or partner, ask them how they are feeling and listen to them express their thoughts. This date represents ‘R U OK?’ Day. It is not only a reminder today, but every day that you should acknowledge that the ones you love or interact with may be going through an emotionally challenging situation or may just simply be feeling unhappy. It is a day to broaden your perception of other’s mental state and reach out to loved ones to remind them that you care and are there for support.

‘R U OK?’ Day was established to raise awareness on mental health and suicide among Australians and to encourage people to reach out to others who may be at risk within their community. There is often a stigma or avoidance around individuals speaking about mental health issues openly with one another. So this day was created to encourage constructive discussion about mental illness, isolation, bullying, sexuality and financial stress (as well as other related topics).      

This day reminds me of Valentine’s Day. Some people think it is silly to have one day per year to express your love through presents, cards, kisses, quality time and affectionate words. Many people say to me “well, you should show love every day” or they think it is nothing but a money-making event. To a certain extent, these statements are true, but the day is also more than that. It is a specific day to express gratitude for those you love, whether it is a romantic partner or just friends and family. Life can be very fast paced. Time to stop and truly appreciate the wonderful people you have in your life through actions and kind words is often pushed aside; and the opportunity for the positive impact it can have on people is missed. Work, cleaning, a TV show at the end of the day and silence often take the top priority seats. I believe a societal prompt in the form of a “Day” to remind people to show their love, thoughtfulness and concern for others, is not silly at all.

‘Words of affirmation’ is one of the five love languages and can be expressed so easily by a simple but thoughtful comment, such as “I appreciate you cooking dinner tonight” or “you look beautiful in yellow”. Having one identified day to rekindle the importance of acknowledging love, or in this case, mental wellbeing, is beneficial beyond what many think. You may love someone internally but unless it is expressed externally to them they may not know. This is the same for caring about someone’s mental health and wellbeing. They may be struggling internally and all they need is someone to ask “are you okay?” or say “I care about your happiness” to realise that their existence is significant.  

So on this day, make sure you vocalise your love and consideration to others around you. Ask someone if they are okay and most importantly remember, any day is a good day to ask “R U OK?”          

If you are worried about someone you know, or you do not feel okay yourself, Womens Health & Family Services (WHFS) provides many supportive programs that can help with mental health and wellbeing. You can contact WHFS on 6330 5400 or email info@whfs.org.au  Don’t feel like talking to anyone? Check out the online resources on mental health issues and some tips on how to manage them (https://whfs.org.au/health-information/).