With thousands of people with disability around Australia in lockdown, quarantine or self-isolating to stay safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people feeling isolated or stressed is extremely high this R U OK Day.
Many people not confined to their homes are still living with concerns about their health and safety due to the threat of the pandemic and tight social restrictions impacting their everyday lives physically, financially and socially.
That’s why this year on R U OK day, Thursday 9 September, people with disability and their friends, family members and carers are being encouraged to follow up their first question of ‘R U OK?’ with, ‘are you really ok?’.
Research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown people with disability are at least three times more likely than the general population to report issues related to anxiety and mood disorders like depression.
Adults with disability are also four times more likely to experience high levels of psychological distress.
So Chief Executive Officer of R U OK? Katherine Newton says you don’t need to know that someone is struggling before you ask them how they are feeling.
“R U OK? is encouraging all Australians to pause and consider how the people in their world are really going, and to make asking ‘are you ok?’ a part of their everyday,” she says.
“None of us are immune to life’s challenges, whether that’s a relationship breakdown, financial worries, work pressure or, sadly for some, the loss of a loved one.
“We want to emphasise that an R U OK? conversation is not only for when someone is visibly distressed or in crisis and remind everyone that their support can make a difference for anyone who is struggling.
“Sometimes it won’t be obvious that someone is having a hard time but we know that when we ask early and in a genuine way, we can help someone who might be struggling feel connected and supported, long before they are in crisis.”
You can have the R U OK? conversation with friends, family, people you work with, neighbours, housemates or anyone you think might benefit from a caring conversation about their mental health.
R U OK? has resources you can use to talk about mental health with the people around you, but the following steps can be a good starting point for a conversation you can have today.
Ask ‘are you ok?’
Make sure you listen actively and without judgement to the answer
If the person says they are ok, ask them ‘are you really ok?’
If they answer that they are not ok, ask them if they want to talk about it and listen to what they say
Encourage them to take action by doing something they enjoy or find relaxing, or if they’ve been feeling like they’re not ok for more than two weeks, encourage them to contact a health professional
After your conversation check in with them - it could be a few days or a few weeks later depending on how much they were struggling - and show that you care about them by asking if they’ve been able to find a way to improve their situation
Stay connected with them and be supportive so that they know they have a person they trust to talk to when they are struggling.
If you would like to learn more about how people with disability can be impacted by mental health we have compiled some information about health and wellbeing topics and taking care of your mental health.
For urgent mental health support for yourself or someone you are worried about, call 13 11 14 to speak to Lifeline or visit the website to use a typed chat.