September 14 is R U OK? Day in Australia, where millions of people around Australia will take the time to check in with family, friends and peers to ask if they are going okay.
Calls to Lifeline are increasing, with the main reasons for calls cited as financial pressures due to the cost of living, and the cost of doing business for small business owners. This means that this year, increasingly, the answer could be ‘no’, I am not okay.
This should come as no surprise after hefty rate and rent increases, utility bill shock and the persistent elevation of petrol prices and food. However, what is a surprise is that when we recently interviewed a sample of our own retail workers, a staggering 78% responded saying they had experienced stress, anxiety and/or depression symptoms in the past four weeks. Again, affirming that the main contributors have been work, financial, family and cost of living pressures.
Not only on an individual basis are the pressures mounting, but business owners also feel isolated in terms of having appropriate resources to manage the mental health issues of employees in the workplace, with 45% of our respondents stating they need more help.
R U OK? Day is an important day because it is about potentially saving lives of friends and family who are not going ok. It’s clear that the 1 in a 100 year pandemic followed by fires, floods and economic uncertainty is taking its toll on the collective mental health of Australians.
This day is important as it is about stepping in to have a conversation on a genuine and meaningful level, without needing to feel responsible for providing solutions or answers. Just listening and being there as a support.
The organisers of R U OK? Day advocate for making the time to actively listen. This is because a lot of people won’t open up because they don’t think you have the time or would care enough to listen. The evidence is strong that having meaningful conversations can save lives. R U OK? Day provides a range of resources and interactive videos that can help you learn ‘how to ask’ while respecting your own capacity for listening.
But what if you are the one that is not going ok? You might not have the capacity to ask someone and that may not be the best approach for you. What you can do is open up to others and allow them to listen to you. An anonymous check on the Beyond Blue website can provide you with feedback and recommendations if you are identifying as experiencing symptoms of stress, anxiety and/or depression.
2023 is a year like no other, nor should we expect that our friends, family and peers can manage on their own. This year, find someone that you genuinely care about, or have noticed is not quite themselves, and take the time to ask ‘Are you okay?’, ensuring you have a suitably scheduled time and place to listen to their answer.
To assist in opening the conversation around financial pressures, there are a range of resources to also help you have the conversation, including how to talk to a mate about finances.