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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 tiacs.org

14 comments


  • I worked as a coordinator in disability support for 5 years. Every Friday afternoon we would have a meeting of coordinators and senior management where the first question was always “How are you travelling” and it would go around the table. 1 week i had been really struggling, short staffed, client behaviours, travelling from one end of Tasmania to my disability accommodation sites etc, It really had been a tough time for me over the previous few weeks. Well I actually said “I am not travelling well” and went in to the issues I had been having. I was asked to stay back after the meeting and thought ok I am going to get some help here. Wrong. I was disciplined and told to never ever again speak of how I felt in front of others in a meeting. It is all lip-service. As someone who has mental health issues this just proved to me the work place dies not care

    Suzanne LA VELLE on

  • CORPORATION:BUSINESS; we should do something for mental health awareness.
    WORKER; you mean like not having people do so many hours to keep up with workload, encouraging more balance, making contract workers permanent do they have some stability, paying a reasonable wage for work done?
    CORPORATION: no- not like that. Maybe some yoga.
    :

    Sue on

  • CORPORATION:BUSINESS; we should do something for mental health awareness.
    WORKER; you mean like not having people do so many hours to keep up with workload, encouraging more balance, making contract workers permanent do they have some stability, paying a reasonable wage for work done?
    CORPORATION: no- not like that. Maybe some yoga.
    :

    Sue on

  • Asking RU Ok may not get the right answer. I know I wouldnt open up and say I have a problem. So it does not always work.

    Maz on

  • I agree that raising awareness of mental health is not a bad thing. However, particularly in the corporate environment of workplaces holding events etc, I feel it is a very dangerous situation. In many cases, the companies themselves will have no idea how to respond should someone say no. If fact, I would go so far to say , many of them would not have even thought of the scenario.

    Many corporations do these days, to give a message to the public etc, that they are a great company with corporate responsibilities, that care about these type of topics. I used to work in disability employment, and had to walk away from some very large companies, that initially said , yes we are happy to help. Then requested people with the most visible disabilities, so they could be “seen” as doing the right thing and community focused, when in fact it was just a pr exercise on their part.
    Raising awareness is great, but education needs to accompany it.

    Ash Walker

    Ashley Walker on

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