R U OK? Day in the workplace

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Next Thursday is RUOK? Day, a day when we are encouraged to reach out and connect with people by asking a simple question.

Set up in 2009 by the three sons of a successful management consultant who committed suicide, RUOK? Day started one million conversations in its first year. The non-profit organisation advocates that “if someone’s doing it tough, the simple act of asking ‘Are you OK?’, can help stop little problems getting bigger.”

In recognition of the fact we all spend so much time at work, RUOK? Day encourages employers to register via its website and access a free tool kit on how to get staff involved in the day.

According to the RUOK? Day website “stress and depression are the largest contributors to lost productivity in Australia, directly costing employers an estimated $10.11 billion a year. In addition, workplace counselling for anxiety and stress has increased 68 per cent and 76 per cent respectively since 2007.”

I would also urge people to take a little time from now until October 7 to think about some of the big issues colleagues might face. Over the years people have written to me about some big stuff such as depression, anxiety, workplace stress from bullying and job hunting after taking time out to recover from cancer or to provide elder care. In many cases people have shared their regret about how they had judged and misjudged colleagues going through a similar experience because they just didn’t understand what was really going on before it happened to them.

It’s great to ask someone if they are ok but only if you are going to lend a sympathetic ear and an open mind.

The RUOK? Day website is a good read and features videos of people telling their own stories. It also provides links to websites that offer stacks of great information such as SANE Australia, Reach Out, the Black Dog Institute, Beyond Blue, Headspace and Multicultural Mental Health Australia.

For more advice from Kate Southam, visit the Ask Kate page.

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