A simple question we all need to ask often

It’s a question we probably don’t ask friends, family and colleagues near enough.

It’s “R U OK?”

The R U OK? Conversation Convoy is hitting the road for a six-week trip, covering 14,000km and stopping in 20 communities. 

It ends on national R U OK? Day on September 14.

Former NRL player and Dubbo resident Daniel Conn is an R U OK? ambassador, using his own experiences to make a difference.

He wants mental health to be his legacy.

His advice to residents is to check-in with loved ones on a more frequent basis.

He says: “Ninety-nine per cent of the time Aussies will probably go ‘yeah, nah I’m fine’ but it’s about actually sitting down, looking someone in the eye one-on-one and saying ‘listen, I noticed you’ve been really quiet lately and I just want to check in and make sure you’re okay’.”

The Convoy is helping raise awareness of the important “4 Steps to a conversation initiative”.

It encourages us all to: Ask, Listen, Encourage Action and Check in.

A simple conversation over the fence with a mate or a neighbour - that takes only minutes – could save a life.

R U OK? chief executive Brendan Maher says the tour has a strong focus on regional and remote areas where he believes more support, on several levels, is still needed.

He’s been encouraged by what he’s seen on the road.

“People are engaging with us, sharing stories of loss, learning about local resources and the four steps to starting a difficult conversation. Skills they can take away and apply within their own social circles.” 

But without doubt, there’s still a long way to go.

According to figures from the Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health people living in rural and remote areas experience a higher rate of suicide than city dwellers. 

That can be for many reasons including a lack of easy access to mental health services, isolation and loneliness and natural disasters putting pressure on finances.

Part of the problem could also be that old bush ethos – but, “she’ll be right mate” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

If someone you know – a family member, mate, neighbour or workmate - is doing it tough, chances are they won’t always tell you – so it might be up to us all to take the first step.