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Why it’s ok to ask, R U OK?

by Josh Wakerman on Monday 10 September 2018


Whether it’s a friend, family member or colleague, there are times when you might’ve noticed something ‘not quite right’ with someone. They might be showing signs of going through extreme stress, anxiety or depression. 

It’s a sad reality that that person could become one of the 65,000 Australians who attempt suicide every year.  

Until everyone feels free to speak up about their own mental health, suicide will continue to take a tragic toll on Australian communities. 

All of us can play a part in turning this devastating statistic around, simply by realising that it’s OK to ask someone who might be struggling, “are you OK”? 

Starting the Conversation

Suicide prevention charity R U OK aims to break down barriers around talking about mental health. 

It’s a topic that shouldn’t be taboo, considering that roughly one in five Australians will experience mental illness. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians between 15 and 44. 

While awareness of mental illness is increasingly being highlighted in popular culture, many still suffer in silence, afraid of being rejected or not taken seriously.

On the flipside, people often find it hard to ask directly about someone’s mental wellbeing. It might be by fear of causing embarrassment, or even triggering suicidal thoughts, but the reality is often the opposite. Being encouraged to talk freely and openly can empower someone struggling with feeling powerless to take action and try to make positive lifestyle changes. 

Taking Action Through Exercise 

The link between physical activity and psychological wellbeing is clear. One of the largest studies on exercise and mental health reported that individuals who did no exercise were 44% more likely to develop depression compared to those who exercised for just one or two hours a week.   

These are some pretty profound statistics, especially when you consider the Australian Health Survey found nearly 30% of adult Australians engaged in low levels of physical activity. This same survey also revealed one million Australians suffered mood disorders in the previous 12 months.  

So, as well as encouraging people to speak up about mental illness, R U OK Day is also a great opportunity to promote the role of exercise in combating depression. 

Exercise doesn’t just improve physical and mental resilience against stress. It can also be a fantastic social tool, helping people feel included and accepted, which is what R U OK Day is all about. 

If you’ve been thinking about reaching out to someone, reconnecting through physical activity is a great excuse to catch up, whether it’s taking a class together, kicking a ball around, or just going for a walk. 

R U OK DAY is a reminder that, as complex as mental illness is, sometimes the simplest of words and actions can have the biggest impact. Asking a question might seem like a small step, but it could be the one that saves a life. 

This year, R U OK Day is Thursday, September 13. Visit the website to find out more or drop into your local Virgin Active club for a conversation, or to get your bod moving for your mental health. You can do it all in our friendly environment on Thursday 13 September for free.  

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