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Are you okay?

On World Mental Health Day, we’re reminding ourselves to have the conversations that count.

Simple questions can help save lives and improve well-being. On September 8, colleagues in Australia tried to do just that: they gathered together to ask each other, R U OK? It was a day organised to remind everyone to have the “conversations that count,” where they check in with family, friends and colleagues, and prompt an open and honest conversation.

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is “psychological first aid.” It reflects on the vital, pragmatic support offered by people who find themselves in a helping role, whether they be health staff, managers, community workers or police officers.

One of the many important ways through which managers can offer psychological first aid is by simply asking questions – questions like those posed by R U OK? in Australia. At Grasstree mine, for instance, Anglo American employees and contractors were reminded to ask each other questions routinely and to provide the opportunity for their colleagues to speak up and ask for help.

“A lot of our employees travel to site to work their rostered shifts and are away from their families for periods of time,” said Bruce Gavin, SHE Superintendent at Grasstree mine. “So they do not always have their immediate support networks around them.”

“This can be particularly isolating if they are going through a hard time”.

Starting the conversation

Tim Hobson, Grasstree’s General Manager and long-time supporter of the initiative, said the goal is to encourage everyone to regularly and meaningfully ask, “are you ok?”

“Often people find it difficult to ask for help, so that’s why R U OK? is so great,” said Hobson. “It’s a safe, simple and informal way to start a conversation with your workmates about their emotional well-being and taps into our Anglo American value of Care and Respect.”

R U OK? was founded by marketing executive Gavin Larkin in 2009, who, following the unexpected death of his father, sought to find a way to spark encouraging and meaningful conversations with other people about their emotional state of mind.

Learn more about the World Mental Health Day from the WHO.

Visit the R U OK? website at www.ruok.org.au or the Facebook page for more information.

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