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Five Reasons R U OK Day Isn't OK

Five Reasons R U OK Day Isn't OK

by Gemma Nichols

In the lead up to September 9th, most companies, institutions and individuals will at least pay lip service to mental health in the spirit of R U OK Day. This lip service may take the shape of increased social media posts encouraging people to speak up from individuals or influencers who have never expressed an interest in hearing anyone out before, but, it might also come in the form of corporate BBQ’s and morning teas at work or posters on the walls of schools and the side of buses.

While it is important to recognise that all of these efforts are undertaken with the best of intentions which include raising awareness and encouraging people to seek help, at TradeMutt we are very aware that many people find this period difficult. So, we have listed a few of the reasons that people might struggle when it comes to R U OK Day and how we can be sensitive to how they are feeling during this time.

The Time For Awareness Is Over 

It is difficult to buy into the idea of “mental health awareness” when you have either lost someone who struggled with their own mental health or you are helping care for someone who is still recovering. In fact, it can seem like a bit of a sick joke to be told that raising awareness is the solution to the mental health crisis, when you have been or still are on the coal face of that crisis.

Our advice is to take a minute and think about how you can be sensitive to those that feel like R U OK Day is a slap in the face and how you can help to make sure that it is more than a day for awareness.

The Lack of Education About How To Respond When Someone Isn’t OK

The idea of not knowing how to respond when someone says they are not okay is extremely daunting for a lot of people. The thought of not having the right resources to direct them to or the right words of encouragement or comfort is enough of a reason for a lot of people to not ask all.

This year, instead of shying away from the important conversations, educate yourself on where you can direct people and be ready to listen. Read more about how here.

Pressure To Speak About Your Mental Health To Anyone Who Asks

The passionate lead up to R U OK Day means that many people feel that the day is the only chance that they might have to speak up about their mental health before next year. Additionally, if you aren’t feeling okay it can be stressful to know that at any point on R U OK Day someone might ask you to open up to them and share how you have been feeling. 

Corporate Tickboxery

Themed breakfasts, morning teas, BBQ’s and “personal” emails from the CEO are all staples of a corporate R U OK Day strategy. And, while it is super encouraging to see companies make an effort to get the conversation started, sometimes these efforts come across as transparent and performative, leaving people feeling even more alone.

It’s Just One Day

While it is admirable to see so many people get around the cause on R U OK Day, it is important to remember that people can be struggling on any day of the year and to check in regularly with yourself and your loved ones.

If this article has raised any mental health issues for you, the TIACS support line is available Monday to Friday, from 9AM - 5PM on 0488 846 988. Find out more at


  • Fully agree with this article. R U OK is the biggest load of B.S. It may have had great intentions from the start but it is a tick and flick for corporate to say that they support mental health. If You ever ask a person that has depression RU OK they will never open up and tell you what’s going on in their life that easy. People with depression don’t want to burden family, friends and work colleagues with their issues. They feel that they can fix this issue by themselves. They feel that suicide is the the only way out and that the loved ones will be better off with out them and won’t miss them. The majority of people that do say they have an illness when asked RU Oak are people that are mostly self diagnosed, that are looking for attention and want the focus on them so people feel for them. The happiest people in the world are mostly the people with the darkest illness, depression. How many times do you hear when a person takes his or her life and their friends say that they had no idea what they were going through. Most partners know something is not right but don’t know how to handle it or what’s going on in their head. This causes frustration, anger and a disconnection in a relationship that lowers a person even more into their darkest hrs.
    I would like to know and have tried to find what the % of funding actually goes to admin and salaries? Most charities now are a corporate money maker at the expense of the issues that they are funding for. I will never give to charity companies that are run by a corporation or organisation. The help, medically is already their for people with these issues the funding needs to go in to education to teach people the signs and how to handle situations with people that have an illness. Trade Mutt keep up the great fight. YNWA

    Ben on

  • As the “unofficial mental health advocate” for the company I work for, I completely agree with this article especially the “Corporate tickboxery” I find people talk the talk but dont walk the walk when it comes to mental health awareness. One day a year is not enough. Recently having been going through burnout my mental health was dismissed and there is many people in this industry especially within our company going through burnout being dismissed.

    Hannah on

  • As a father with a child who had mental health issues – it was the one day of the year we made no effort to get our kid to school.

    Bill on

  • To speak out and not be heard is most difficult.
    I received a reminder from my daughters school advising me my child was absent from school, I completed the online form, stating that my dauber had unsuccessfully attempted suicide. I did not receive a call for 2 days, even then I had to call them. Every year on RUOK DAY, they have a big promotion at the school. Just disgusted.

    Kim Monk on

  • “Corporate Tickboxery”. I relate to that term so much. Struggling with mental illness myself and being separated by 2000klm from a self harming child in crisis during Covid has certainly opened my eyes to this phenomenon over recent years. One manager even offered to send my young adult child a bag of cement to toughen up after I shared that I was concerned for his mental health.
    The same phenomenon rears it’s ugly head when it comes to gender equality, indigenous equality and work life balance that companies strongly promote but really it is truly corporate tickboxery.

    Robyn on

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