This year’s message for RUOK Day is “Are they, really, OK? Ask them today, and show you care.”
While the message is great, the problem is our mental health system is not OK. At. All.
Let’s get real. The mental health system as we know it has been broken for a long time and was already in strife well before the arrival of Covid-19. Chronically underfunded and understaffed, access to timely and appropriate help has been and continues to be a nightmare.
Just ask any parent of a child suffering a mental health crisis or partner deeply concerned by their spouse’s suicidal ideation.
With one in two of us likely to experience some form of mental health challenge at least once in our lifetime, this is clearly not OK.
If we really care, it’s time to rethink the whole system and:
- Make mental wellbeing the norm – to effectively take away the stigma, guilt, and shame, to make discussing our feelings and challenges as natural as when sharing that we have a broken leg.
- Adopt those lifestyle practices as shown by the science that help to elevate mood and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression like a healthy diet, physical activity, sleep, time in nature, and good stress management. It’s not rocket science, but it is brain science.
- Use education to raise awareness of how the strength and intensity of our emotions and feelings can be easily modified using simple techniques of breathing, meditation, and mindfulness.
- Give everyone including ourselves, permission and access to better self-care and mental health days.
- Promote social connection and interaction in activities that elevate mood, happiness, and a sense of belonging like singing, dancing and just having fun!
To be more than just OK, it’s about reimagining our approach to mental wellbeing and asking:
- What can be done differently within our communities to provide greater support and positive interactions?
- What can every school, college and tertiary institution do to implement and promote mental wellbeing as the norm for every student and staff member?
- What can every workplace do to get better at identifying those vulnerable to, or living with a mental health challenge and make access to help easy, and stigma free?
Feeling cared about is as important to our very survival as air, food, and shelter.
Having regular meaningful contact with those we love, our friends and our work colleagues isn’t just a nice to have, it’s essential to our wellbeing.
If you’ve been feeling low or anxious, having someone there to listen, or to give you a hug helps you to know you are not alone, and that support can be a lifesaver.
Showing you care and knowing others care about you, raises hope, confidence, and the courage to take the necessary help to be restored to your usual bright-eyed, bushy-tailed self.
Caring makes everything feel better.
I care. Do you?
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life (Wiley) is now available for purchase.
If mental wellbeing is something you’d like to spend some time finding out more about for yourself and your work colleagues, I’m hosting a Leadership Retreat at Bunker Bay October 7th to 10th. You can discover all the details here.