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Today is RU OK? Day.

Never has it been more important to ask the question, ‘Are you OK?’ 2020 Has seen economic challenges and social upheaval on a scale not seen since World War II or The Great Depression. We all have different triggers and threats to our mental health – financial hardship, relationship stress, isolation – and many of these factors have become critical during the bushfire season and the COVID crisis.

The truth is, everyone has times that are difficult and it’s more than alright to acknowledge that. No man (or woman is an island) and there are people you can talk to. If you start a conversation with just about anyone, they will tell you about the stages, emotions and situations that have made their mental health rocky. Mental stress and a feeling of helplessness are often heightened when you lack control over the circumstances confronting you. Sometimes, men in particular, attempt to try to carry the burden alone. Australian culture has traditionally portrayed men as solitary and strong in the face of hardship. Men are often reluctant to add to the pressure of their partners, family and friends, or fear looking weak in the eyes of society.

The good news is expectations are changing. In the past, people didn’t know when someone’s mental health was low until the situation was extreme but, the momentous events of this year, combined with initiatives such as RU OK? Day, conversations about mental health are becoming normal. It is common practice to keep in touch with friends and family to see how things are going. Australians have always pitched in when help is needed and now is no exception. Communities are coming together to care for people who are struggling and to help navigate new challenges in the wake of massive changes to family dynamics, work environments and local networks.

Employers can help their staff by keeping the lines of communication open, now and into the future. Dean Herald, Chelsea Gold Winner and Owner of Rolling Stone Landscapes, was recently interviewed by Ken Bevan of Alpine Nurseries for a TLA seminar. Dean is a firm believer that a good employer can read their staff and colleagues and identify times when they could use extra support. He stated that by asking the right questions in a comfortable, private moment, most people opened up quickly about their troubles and opened the door to making help possible. Dean holds regular conversations with his staff when he notices they are flat or stressed and he found this very helpful for morale and a better workplace for all.

Further still, Dean has faced rough patches just like anyone. He found that opening up to a mate or colleague improved his mental state immeasurably and also led to very helpful practical advice. The experience was grounding and provided the mental health check he needed.

So, start a conversation with the people around you, family, friends and colleagues. It could make all the difference to someone doing it tough.

If you or someone you know could use some external help, even to have a free, anonymous chat, there are a range of services available:

MensLine Australia – www.mensline.org.au – Ph: 1300 78 99 78
Beyond Blue – www.beyondblue.org.au – Ph: 1300 22 4636
Sane Australia – www.sane.org – Ph: 1800 18 7263
Mates in Construction – www.mates.org.au – Ph: 1300 642 111
OzHelp – www.ozhelp.org.au – Ph: 1300 694 357

View the conversation between Dean Herald and Ken Bevan here.

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