There are many amazing things about living outside Australia’s bigger towns and cities, but it also has its challenges.
A review undertaken by the Centre for Community Child Health in 2017 (reported in Partyline #61, Nov 2017) found access to services, isolation and loneliness are some of the issues facing children in rural communities. These can be compounded by a ‘toughen up’ culture making it harder to talk about the things that keep us awake at night.
National suicide prevention charity R U OK? is working to address this by building everyone’s skills and confidence to start a conversation and support someone who may be struggling with life. R U OK? believes we’re never too young to look out for one another and meaningfully connect.
By recognising and celebrating positive peer behaviour, we can encourage children from an early age to learn that being supportive, asking “Are you OK?” and being comfortable with the answer “No, I’m not OK” can help someone who’s going through a tough time feel supported and more connected.
Claire Orange is a child and family mental health author, advocate and speaker and, most importantly, a mother to four boys. As an R U OK? Ambassador, she encourages parents to start these meaningful conversations early.
“My advice to parents is to have the conversation and be alright to just be a pair of ears, a shoulder to lean on or a human tissue, because sometimes that’s all we can be”, said Claire.
“We can be somewhere for our kids to land safely and let out their deepest hurts or what’s happening in their life. Not having to have the solution is okay.”
R U OK? has developed four conversation steps to give us all, no matter how young, the skills and confidence to navigate a conversation with someone we're worried about:
1. Ask “are you OK?”
2. Listen with an open mind.
3. Encourage action.
4. Check in.
R U OK? reinforces that every day is the day to ask the question of someone we’re worried about.
A place where teaching the importance of peer-to-peer support can really work is in education. R U OK? has produced age appropriate resources for primary, secondary and tertiary education organisations, to help students everywhere start a conversation with someone they’re worried about.
All resources are curriculum aligned, open source and designed to introduce and emphasise the value of close connections and strong relationships.
“We’re never too young to look out for one another and lend support. While children can't be expected to fix someone’s problems, they can be encouraged to listen to what their friend is saying, show they care and tell a teacher, school counsellor or trusted adult if they are worried”, said Katherine Newton R U OK? CEO.
“It’s about educating and empowering children to activate a set of resources we all have – our eyes to see, ears to listen and mouth to ask - when we notice the signs that someone we care about might be struggling with life.”
R U OK? resources are free of charge. Visit www.ruok.org.au to download your copy and find out how you can encourage more conversations in your community every day.
R U OK? Was a sponsor of the 15th National Rural Health Conference.
Need to talk to someone? If you need immediate assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression, contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.