Are you OK?

What is R U OK?Day
R U OK?Day is a national day of action on the second Thursday of September (13 September 2012), dedicated to inspiring all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask each other ‘Are you ok?’
By raising awareness about the importance of connection and providing resources throughout the year, the R U OK? Foundation aims to prevent isolation by empowering people to support each other through life’s ups and downs.

The website is at and there are multiple social media accounts and other points of contact linked there.

I particularly like these two resource pages – How to Ask ‘R U OK?’ and How to say ‘I’m not OK’.

FWIW, I’m not particularly OK right now: I’m not suicidal or even deeply depressed, but I’m feeling rather adrift and not nearly enough in control, which is anxiety-inducing. I hope most of you are feeling substantially better than that, but I know that some of you are probably feeling much worse. You are not alone, and there is help out there. Feel free to talk here if you want to, but don’t feel compelled to share here if you’d rather be more private: please just find somebody you can trust to talk to.

Categories: crisis, relationships


28 replies

  1. Put me down as another who isn’t particularly OK. I’m busy dealing with my semi-annual attack of the miseries (the depression is flaring up, not helped by the ongoing drama that was getting new lino laid, and the other ongoing drama that is the missing fence between our house and the neighbour’s place. Let’s just say that constant invasions of my privacy aren’t things I handle well and leave it at that) plus trying to write whole heaps of Java code and documentation for an assignment due tomorrow. It is very hard to brain when my brain doesn’t want to brain. It is very hard to do things when the main thing I want to do is curl up under the blankets and sleep for several weeks until my brain has stopped hating me.
    So I’m busy ploughing through all of this (chest-high treacle territory, to be honest) and trying to get everything done in between bouts of beating down the impostor syndrome, and the “gods I’m useless” and the “I ought to be dead” that comes with being depressed.
    I’m not OK at the moment. But I’m pretty sure I will be OK in a couple of weeks or so, once the mental mopping up is finished.

  2. This mostly lurker/seldom commenter hopes things feel a bit rosier for you soon. I always look forward to your take on issues and appreciate your contributions.
    There have been times when I have been definitely notOK but right now, things are good. Thank you for asking and caring when you’re not feeling great.

  3. Oh, and can I just point out that lots of the information online about depression isn’t much use to someone who’s been living with it for the better part of about thirty years. There isn’t much out there for the chronic long-term depressive who’s been on the medication-go-round, and who’s discovered it doesn’t work for them. So if you’ve tried the GP, and you’ve tried the medication, and you’ve discovered they don’t work, what then?
    In my case, “what then” turns out to be “back to plan A – just keep on pushing through, even if it is like walking through chest-high treacle.”

  4. I’d never heard of this before. What a good idea!
    I’m okay, but too many people around me aren’t just now. Maybe we should all have a no-it-is-not-okay get-together tomorrow to mark the day.

  5. I am also ok, apart from a bit of general down-ness that is associated with times of the semester when assessment piles up and you’re just completely tired out.
    But yeah, I also know a lot of people who are not ok at the moment – housemates, friends and siblings whose relationships have not worked out, generally uni friends who are really feeling the pressure. I’m trying to be as supportive as I can without spending all day worrying. I hate it when people I love are sad. 😦
    *hugs* and support to everyone in this thread, and anyone reading.

  6. Australia’s mental health system (probably rightly) comes under a lot of criticism, but I’d urge people not to avoid seeking help because they don’t think it will work for them.
    For me it worked pretty well – there was a reasonable amount of financial support for counselling which made a big difference. And to my big surprise there were even government funded mental health people who would regularly visit me at home to check up on me and help me get through my difficulties at the time.

  7. Hugs to everyone not feeling OK today, or any day. I seem to be in happily bubbling along mode atm, after an awful weekend mostly self imposed. But generally OK. I’m only an email away if you need a sympathetic ear.

  8. Chris: what happens when you’ve been on the merrigoround a few times and you can’t be arsed to find out if dragging yourself through the system one more time might actually help properly? Exactly how many times is the system allowed to not do a very good job before one is qualified to say it doesn’t work well? And when I add in the amount of effort one has to expend when depressed to even try, all I can feel is a kind of despair for all the people worse off then me who are not going to get the help they need.

  9. Aqua – I’m not claiming the system works for everyone – clearly it fails a lot too and could do with a lot more funding. There are lots of news reports of its failings.
    What I was trying to say was that for people who haven’t used it before, don’t just assume that the system is so crap it won’t work and so not try to get help from it at all. There are cases where the system is really helpful. The home visits were one example – I know first hand how hard it can be to even try when you’re really depressed – and having people who proactively rang me to make an appointment to come to my house rather than me having to ring someone to make an appointment to go see them made it *much* easier.

  10. I’d phrase it this way: a lot of the government money being spent on mental health is aimed at crisis intervention. It’s aimed at dealing with people who are having a single suicidal, manic or psychotic episode as a “one off” thing and who have only dropped the bundle temporarily, and will probably be just fine after a single three month session of counselling and some minor assistance. There’s a lot of emphasis on seeing your GP (although most GPs aren’t trained to deal with mental illness in anything other than the most cursory fashion, and really can’t provide a specialist service to deal with it) and getting onto medication.
    It isn’t so good when faced with someone with a chronic mental illness who isn’t willing to be a good little loony and spend their lives on the medication-go-round. (No, I’ve tried it. Anti-depressants don’t work on me unless I’m taking them at levels which pretty much erase my cognitive functioning and leave me barely able to move from the bed to the couch to the bed again – at which point I start finding it hard to take the blasted meds in the first place. My biochemistry hates me.) It isn’t so good when faced with someone whose problems aren’t going to go away after the standard twelve counselling sessions per calendar year as delivered in a three month intensive period. It really isn’t good when faced with someone whose mental issues still don’t impair their intellectual functioning, and who is well and truly able to tell when they’re being talked down to by a bureaucrat who’s just interested in stuffing them into whichever box is convenient this fortnight (no, I’m depressed, not stupid).
    Oh, and it really isn’t suited to someone who is intelligent enough to work out how to manipulate their answers on all the self-report tests used for diagnosis and screening. How bad is my depression? Well, depending on whether I want to sit through the same old rigmarole again (including the standard “are you now or have you ever been a drug addict/rape victim/abused child/alcoholic/psychotic mass murderer” thing where they try to find the REASON for my depression, because I can’t possibly be being honest when I say it’s because my biochemistry hates me) it’s as bad as I want it to be at that moment. If I’m trying to get you to take it (and me) seriously, you’ll get the version which includes the salesdemon for suicide who occasionally comes to visit these days (this is an improvement – he used to live there full time). If you’re trying to use me as a teaching tool or a scapegoat, I’ll be giving you the version where it hits very occasionally, and today’s a good day, really (even if I’m about three minutes from trying to find a nice sharp edge on something, or step in front of a semi-trailer), honest, I’m fine.

  11. *hugs* to anyone who wants them.
    I am mostly ok, but work is incredibly stressful. Cats, music, yoga and good food help.
    Am going to check in with a couple of people now…

  12. I’m not really ok. Relationship stuff, which is bringing up a lot of PTSD stuff, and I’ve already got depression stuff. It was bad for a while, but today was a good day. I got out of bed, achievement unlocked! I didn’t eat a block of chocolate for breakfast, level up!
    Everyone at uni is stressed, – assignments, the last round of flu, stuff building up over the year – so we’re organising relaxation afternoons in the Queer Department with meditation, massages and chocolate. This afternoon some R U Ok people came around and gave everyone phone cards so they could call Lifeline for free from mobiles.

  13. I was feeling pretty good after my usual Thursday night yoga class, and starting to feel like I am getting over the latest round of lurgy to go through our house. Then I came home to my first rejection slip. Ouch. I thought I’d steeled (stolen?) myself against that more than I obviously had.

    • It saddens me to read about those of you who are not feeling OK. It sucks, I know it. Quixote’s idea of an “it’s not OK” gathering sounds quite constructive.
      Angharad, you were correct with “steeled” rather than “stolen” – “steeling” is a technical process performed on iron in order to harden it and otherwise transform it into steel (simple iron is brittle and will break/shatter under lower tensile loads than steel can withstand) – so it’s a metaphor for being able to cope with larger burderns (not sure that’s always as laudable as it tends to be presented).

  14. Another mostly lurker who isn’t OK. This has been a terrible week, partly with reasons and partly not. But it is somewhat cheering to see that people care.

  15. I have to say, the idea of “R U OK” rubs me the wrong way.
    If someone is really “not OK”, it’s going to take a lot more than a few minutes of listening and maybe a hug to make a difference. Usually, when I’m “not OK”, it’s a hell of a lot more than a bit of feeling blue, and I’m devoting all of my energy to just doing what needs doing and not giving in to despair. Telling my despair to someone for 5 minutes, who’s then going to go off anyway, just reminds me of why I’m feeling desperate without actually changing anything.
    The people who are in a position to give real help, whether therapy or just practical stuff, almost always already know what’s going on with you, anyway. Or at least, as much as they’re willing to know.
    I’ll also second the comments about most of the “help” being focussed on short-term crises that can be fixed in 8-10 therapy sessions (which is all that most USA insurance plans pay for, anyway.) There’s not much effective help for long-term problems, whether due to chemistry, crappy childhood, or mental, physical, or economic disability. I think that’s in part because of the Western idea that suffering is due to something the sufferer is doing wrong, so if the quick fixes don’t work, it must be because the sufferer is being obstinant (cf.: Job.) Our societies are in total denial of the existence of suffering that cannot be ordered about but simply has to be endured.

  16. I am OK, but not good.
    Megpie (and others, probably) – I really sympathise over the whole chronic depression. Anti-depressants work for me as a lift out severe depression when I’m not functioning, but they just get me to mildly depressed, rather than well. Doctors struggle with this, and sometimes say incredibly unhelpful things.
    I’m currently trying to work out what lifestyle factors make a difference to me, which is a slow and difficult business.
    Anyway, I hope things get better for everyone soon.

  17. I agree that our medical system seems much better geared to help cases of acute but fairly short term health problems than chronic long term ones – whether they be mental health related or not. Perhaps the chronic ones tend to be a lot more complicated and expensive?
    Megpie71 – yes those self diagnostic tests are trivially easy to bias. To the point where I wonder if they’re really meant to be used as an objective measure of mental illness, or if in practice they’re something used by GPs as a tool which makes it easier for patients to ask for more help (by deliberately biasing the results) without actually saying so out loud. Because I think people often reflexively say they’re ok when asked even if they’re not. The questionnaires give them a second chance to say that they’re not really ok and for the GP to investigate further.
    btw I agree that GP’s aren’t really setup to handle complicated mental health issues – they simply don’t have the time for starters. But from what I’ve seen they do appear to be the gatekeepers to access other services – eg mental health plans which give you access to funding, referring and liasing with and between acute care services, counsellors, hospitals etc. My GP seems to be sent reports from wherever I get health services so she’s probably in the best position to see the big picture.

  18. AMM I think you have hit on what it is that has been itching me about RUOK day. It is fine to ask, and when someone says ‘yes I’m OK’ you can pat yourself on the back and go on your merry way and not worry about it until next year.

  19. AMM & Mindy, I have some sympathy for that view, and if that was the only way it is being used, I would agree with you entirely.
    However, I think it is (or at least can be, and is for me) a useful addition to the mental health toolbox.
    First: I used it as a prompt to check in with a few people, all close friends, mostly as a way of saying “I care, I’m thinking about you, I’m here if you want to chat”. I got a couple of brief responses plus a long phone call with one of those people. The latter friend had had some tough times recently and has told me explicitly before that she really appreciates people checking in, even if it is brief. She might not be clinically depressed, but it doesn’t mean she is perfectly mentally healthy (same goes for me) and knowing that I can help in that regard prompts me to actually do so from time to time.
    Secondly, it prompts posts like this one and comment threads like this one. They appear on HAT from time to time anyway, but in general, anything which can prompt a discussion of mental health & mental health resources is a good thing.
    But I absolutely agree that something like RUOK Day is incredibly limited and I agree that needs to be acknowledged (I just don’t think it is entirely useless, at least, it isn’t for me). I hope that what it prompts could lead to recognition that longer term mental illnesses need to be treated and dealt with differently from short term illnesses, and that at the moment, something is missing from the system.

  20. I probably am being a bit harsh Jo, I’m thinking back to a post from earlier in the year about how liking something on Facebook doesn’t change a hell of a lot, but makes us feel better like we have actually done something. Maybe I’m just too cynical atm.

  21. Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of cynicism!
    In some ways, that’s why I made my post all about *me* and the way *I* have used RUOK Day this year. I guess what I was trying to say was: it works for me to do something a bit more substantive, and if that is generally true (I don’t know!), that’s a good thing …
    … BUT IF has the effect of making us (as a society) feel like “HEY LOOK AT US AREN’T WE GREAT IN TAKING CARE OF MENTAL HEALTH”, without actually doing anything substantive, I think your cynicism is completely justified.
    I should have made that more clear.
    Hmm, I used “prompt” way too much in that comment, didn’t I? That’s what I get for posting a long comment from a mobile despite being able to see only 2 lines of the comment box at a time … 😉

    • {{{{iHugs}}}}} to anybody who likes and wants them.
      I like that the R U OK? website states clearly on the front page that they want to inspire “all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask each other ‘Are you ok?’”. I think the regularly is not getting focussed on enough in most media coverage, because it’s only by making asking this question (and being prepared to actively listen to the responses) a habit, a regular demonstration of caring about others’ lives, that people feeling isolated by their circumstances will get any benefit at all.

  22. I’m another one who’s not ok. I’ve been in a particularly depressive rut for nearly a year now, though meds are keeping me from thinking about suicide too much.

  23. *hugs* to everyone who wants them.
    I understand the not feeling too okay. My depression has been fairly absent of late, but stress (final month of thesis writing, teaching, journal paper to rewrite) can tempt it back. I totally empathise with wanting to go to bed and be kind to yourself, a national day to do that would be awesome.

  24. Jo’s take on R U OK day is probably what was intended by the people who dreamt it up. (Website reference via Tigtog seems to suggest this as well.) Like AMM and Mindy, though, I’m more cynical; I’ve only ever seen it used as 1) a corporate show that accomplishes nothing or 2) a duty to discharge once a year. Most people I’ve run into don’t even bother with 2), just ignoring the posters and tv ads until they go away much like most people have handled Commbank’s current crop of crapvertising.
    It seems that the people who care will always have cared with or without a dedicated day. It also seems that the people who don’t care can’t be made to care by setting up a national day of action. I’m all for more action on mental health, but this whole “one big show and we’re done” mentality really annoys and frustrates me to no end. I’d be far more in favour of having school psychologists and having a “destigmatising and dealing with mental health” course folded into required curricula. It might take 30 years to see change, but it’d be almost certain to happen.

  25. I so relate to what you’re saying, Megpie71. When I read books on depression which say, “90% of people with depression are treatable,” I get so angry. What do I, in that 10%, do? And every new counsellor I see has the message, “Try harder.” If I’m not responding to treatment it can’t be the treatment that’s the problem, it must be me.
    Free counselling sessions are limited; few professionals bulk bill. I was told I should get a job so I could afford to pay… Because I really need long term, professional counselling. But I can’t work. The psychiatrist who said this had no idea how ridiculous he was.
    I’ve been on one antidepressant or another for 12 years; counselling on and off for 18 years. I’m now 35. The antidepressants keep me alive but they cause cognitive blunting… So I have trouble writing, the only thing that gives my life a sense of purpose. Who am I kidding, it’s been years since I’ve written a piece of fiction.
    Whatever the creators intended, I think RU OK? is used so smugly by so many people. A once a year question, and they’ve done their duty for the year.
    (And a quick aside: so sick of high profile, hell, any people trumpeting how they “once” had depression and how they “beat” it.)
    I’m so frustrated by my lack of “progress” in my management of depression. Every day my life just drifts away. Another day wasted, no matter how much I try. And the truth is no one, except maybe a few people in my life, want to know what it’s really like for me. The truth is most photos show me smiling, I’m known as friendly and cheerful. It’s what’s expected.
    One good thing: other people with chronic depression sharing their stories. You keep me going. You keep me from putting all the blame on myself. Thank you.

  26. This is so timely Tigtog, thanks for sharing.
    Just something else of great value you share, that I get to share with others who are not OK.
    Since Atheism+ forum started, we have floods of people who are not OK, and are totally isolated – many admit it’s the first time in a long time, in some cases YEARS that they have had a chance to connect with others while suffering alone.
    We need to be checking in with each other when we can, and as often as we can.

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