Happy R U OK day everyone!
Actually I am not sure if that is a very good sentence to start with, because R U OK day is all about checking if someone is OK, or if they in fact are having some issues such as depression, other mental health problems, or just a hard time. As such, being too happy could make it difficult for someone to open up.
So why the day with the random name? Well mainly because depression (and mental health) is a major issue in our society, but it is rarely talked about. The WHO (World Health Organisation) describes it as the leading cause of disability, and the 4th biggest contributor to burden of disease in the world (as calculated by disability adjusted life years lost). In their calculations it is projected to be 2nd largest cause of disability and disease by 2020. Worldwide, 121 million people have depression. And if it is not enough to have that many of our friends and family suffering, there are 850 000 completed suicides every year, and many more attempts. This day is an attempt to change these statistics for the better, by creating stronger ties and better educated people. And I personally think it should be an everyday thing.
As someone who has had depression, I never felt that the stigma people often talk about was a major problem. But I did find that people don’t understand. I think they still don’t know the signs of depression; people who don’t know you well just think you are boring and apathetic. And as for friends, they don’t know what to do about it or they don’t care. I hated the question ‘how are you today’, because I had an instinctive feeling that if you say ‘actually I feel shit’ one day you get sympathy and a good chat, two-three days you get slightly hollow sympathy and after that you are just being boring or annoying. Who is going to hang out with you when you are no fun. Who is going to stand by you when there are no guarantees about how long you will be like this, or if you will ever be the same person you used to be. From my experience, not many people. And it sucks. It only makes your feelings of isolation and hopelessness worse.
So maybe it is stigma, or lack of education, or breakdown of communities. Whatever the cause(s), mental health is definitely not being dealt with as well as it could be. In 2009, 2132 people in Australia died sue to suicide. In the same year 1507 people died in road accidents. When I found this out, it shocked me. We have been having media campaign after media campaign about road safety messages. There are ones about waiting for trains, drink driving, drunk driving, stopping on country roads and numerous ones recently about creeping over the speed limit. What has there been done about decreasing the suicide death toll- which might I remind you is 40% higher than the road toll? Almost nothing. There have been a couple of ads for beyondblue, and while they have a commendable website this is not enough.
So I say, lets do it to R U OK day. I say lets make it R U OK decade. Lets get off our ipads, turn off the tv, take out our headphones and connect into the people we see everyday. Lets get real. Lets talk about mental health. And to those who have experience, lets share our stories. The sexual revolution has come and gone; it is time for the mental health revolution.
As for me, I had depression and I am not ashamed of it. At the moment: yes, I am OK. Thank you for asking. And you?