NEWS

OPINION: It’s not enough to ask “are you okay” today

It's time we do more than share inspirational posts on Instagram.
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Australians are flooding social media with inspirational messages for R U OK? Day today, but with mental health struggles at an all-time high, we need to do more than just ask people if they’re okay.

WATCH: Jacqui Purvis’ short film about mental health

It’s a worthy cause and a nice sentiment, but that question alone isn’t enough to tackle the mental health crisis so many Aussies are facing.

More than two in every five Australians aged 16-85 years have experienced mental illness at some time in their life, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

That’s an estimated 8.6 million people in Australia who have struggled with their mental health, with anxiety disorders the most common mental illness Aussie grapple with.

And they’re not just experiencing passing bouts of stress or depression when times are tough.

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More than two in every five Australians aged 16-85 years have experienced mental illness. (Credit: Instagram/R U OK?)

The ABS reports that one in five Australians – more than 4.2 million people – experienced mental disorders that lasted longer than 12 months.

So will asking “are you okay?” really help the millions of Australians grappling with mental health woes that just won’t go away? Probably not.

That’s why we need to start expanding the way we ask about, talk about and listen to each others’ experiences with mental illness.

It’s not enough to drop the question “are you okay” during morning office small talk, then just get on with your day. It’s not enough to repost something on Instagram.

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The last decade has seen Australian society take huge strides when it comes to acknowledging the realities of mental illness. (Credit: Instagram/R U OK?)

We need to ask with genuine care and be ready and willing to listen if someone does decide to open up.

What’s more, we need to be ready to speak honestly about our own mental struggles to build an environment (be it at work, within social circles or for our own families) that allows or even encourages people to speak openly about mental health.

The last decade has seen Australian society take huge strides when it comes to acknowledging the realities of mental illness and how it can affect our daily lives.

We have access to more resources and support channels than ever before and workplaces around the nation now promote mental health days and employee assistant programs designed to improve mental wellbeing.

WATCH: Elly Miles reveals mental health struggles

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But most of us are still afraid of the stigma that comes with actually speaking about using these resources, needing this support or taking a mental health day.

That’s why it’s not enough to just ask if your co-worker or mate is okay.

We also need to be ready to admit when we’re not okay, to share our own stories and finally be honest with one another about our mental health.

After all, inspirational posts on Instagram will only get us so far. It’s time for something a little more real.

If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit their website.

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