It’s R U OK? Day (9 September), where people are encouraged to have important conversations about mental health — and businesses are among those who can get involved.
The suicide prevention charity has resources to inspire business leaders and owners to build an “R U OK? culture” at work, which means one where everyone feels safe, supported and encouraged. These resources include a Workplace Champions Guide to promote peer-to-peer support and regular, meaningful conversations among colleagues. There’s also a guide to help people talk to their colleagues about whether they’re OK, a presentation kit and a video.
Businesses can also host events. COVID-safe activities suggested for those workplaces in lockdown include hosting a digital event, going for a walk with someone (where permitted) and creating an online communication channel.
According to R U OK?, the benefits of promoting a supportive culture at work are:
• Help you become an employer of choice, boosting staff engagement and morale.
• Supports your legal obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 to protect the mental and physical wellbeing of your employees.
• It’s the right thing to do.
R U OK? Day was founded in 2009, by Gavin Larkin, to honour his father who died from suicide. This year’s theme is: “Are they really OK?” Ask them today. Do you know how the people in your world are really going?
The theme asks people not to wait “someone’s visibly distressed or in crisis” and “make a moment meaningful and ask them how they’re really going”.
Lockdowns and distancing an added stressor
This year, R U OK? Day comes as many people and businesses are once again in an extended lockdown. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey found that, in June 2021, 20% of Australians had experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in the previous four weeks, and 30% of younger Australians (aged 18 to 34 years) had experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress.
In a recent article, R U OK? said “given the current COVID-19 landscape, it has never been more important to ensure workplaces and their employees are fostering wellbeing and offering support where necessary”. It also gave a list of tips for wellbeing while physically distancing.