Today is R U OK? day.

It’s as good an opportunity as any to reflect on our wellbeing and check in with those around us.

When you do, please keep in mind that psychological distress and mental illness are far more complex than asking a single question.

While many people have a genetic predisposition, our environment also plays a role in psychological health. 

Some things that are known to affect psychological health are: 

– A lack of social/family support

– Financial hardship

– Lack of access to mental health information and resources

– Stigma around mental health diagnoses

– Beliefs that mental illnesses aren’t “real”

– A culture of emotional shallowness that’s lacking in meaningful connection.

So today, when you ask “R U OK?”, please spare a thought to the other 364 days of the year. 

Please take a moment to re-evaluate the way YOU view people with psychological symptoms or mental health challenges. 

Let’s STOP judging, shaming, or mocking people who have a diagnosis, who take medication, or who ask for support (financial/social/medical/psychological). 

Let’s STOP contributing to prejudiced attitudes about people with mental illness. Please STOP using ableist words like “psycho”, “spaz”, “dumb”, “lame”, or “insane”. Try using “ridiculous”, “silly”, “phenomenal”, or “sensational” instead.

Let’s STOP thinking that a pill or a conversation can “cure” someone. 

Let’s STOP making dangerous suggestions like suddenly ceasing medications. If someone expresses an interest in stopping medications, please encourage them to do it slowly and only under the care of their doctor.

Let’s STOP thinking that people can just “snap out of it”. If it were that easy, they’d have done it already.

Let’s STOP thinking that awareness is enough. The rising rates of psychological distress needs to be matched with better access to mental health services. (Did you know: in some paediatric services, waiting lists can be 18 months or longer? That’s a long time in the life of a kid. I’m told it’s even worse in adult services). 

If you’re part of R U OK? day, I applaud you. When you wake up tomorrow, please continue to maintain your awareness, and most of all, your kindness and respect, for people who are living with mental illness every single day of the year.