13 Jul 2021

R U OK Day: From one man’s pain, comes a whole world of hope


With anxiety and depression on the rise globally (and the added stress of a global pandemic that isn’t going away anytime soon) it’s more important than ever to talk about mental health. Yet somehow we still struggle as a society to have genuine, open conversations about life’s ups and downs. Even a simple ‘How are you?’, especially in a space like the workplace, is almost expected to be answered with a thoughtless ‘Good thanks’. R U OK? Day 2021 is fast approaching – this year falling on September 9th – and with it, comes the chance to take another step forward in positively shifting how we talk (or more accurately, don’t talk enough!) about mental health.


The History of R U OK? Day


In 2009, fourteen years after losing his own father to suicide, Gavin Larkin decided something needed to be done to try and make a difference to this landscape of tight-lipped toleration. He didn’t want anyone else to go through the suffering his family had been through. So Gavin and his team created the annual R U OK? Day in the hope to inspire people to open up more about mental health. The aim is to empower us all to lend support when someone around us is struggling, and perhaps even be honest the next time somebody tries to ask us how our day is going! At the centre of all of this, is the not-for-profit’s power message: ‘a conversation could change your life’. If we can work as a community to create space for as many of these conversations as possible, R U OK has a vision that we can shape a world where we are all connected and supported to take control of our mental health.


How to (genuinely) ask if someone’s ok


We all play a role in changing the way we talk about mental health. Building resilience and creating space for important conversations is a community effort. While simply asking ‘Are you ok?’ is a great start, there are a few more key steps in the process that will help us to make a real difference in someone else’s life. These are:

● Ensure you are ready to ask the question and have picked a good moment
● Ask questions to help them open up, for example ‘What has been going on?’
● Actively listen to and engage with what the person is going through
● Encourage positive action
● Continue to check in with them so that person can feel supported and connected in a meaningful way


Making sure everybody in our community is protected from suicide depends on us all continuing to support each other as a network. We can all make a positive difference simply by making time to properly listen to those around us!


R U OK? Day Keynote Speakers


Beyond having individual conversations, it’s also important to spread the mission of R U OK? Day in our community, schools and workplaces. Listening to an expert with both personal and professional experiences with mental health is an invaluable way to create better mental health awareness within your organisation, as well as empower more individuals with the tools to start their own conversations.


Defying all odds, Kath Koschel is an incredible woman who was forced to teach herself to walk on three separate occasions. Her story is one of utter strength and resilience after breaking her back twice as a professional athlete. Kath’s not-for-profit, ‘The Kindness Factory’, and its mission to achieve one million acts of kindness is what really lights her up though. We continue to be in awe of Kath as she inspires all who hear her story and passion.


Disability and LQBTQ advocate Wayne Herbert is another powerful resilience and mental health speaker who has a distinctive comedic approach to mental health awareness. Wayne is currently a member of the ACT Government’s LGBTQ ministerial advisory board with an extensive background in government advisory work. Intelligent, funny and thought-provoking, Wayne Herbert challenges insights into the issues faced by the LGBTIQ community and people with disabilities.


Dr Kerry Maberly is a woman with a drive to empower people to utilise the strengths and quirks of their brains. As a cognitive and behavioural science specialist, Kerry can provide an in-depth scientific perspective that gives unique insights into mental health and wellbeing.


Former world number 4 tennis champion, commentator and best-selling author Jelena Dokic has an epic story of survival and strength to share. Despite the hardship and ongoing abuse Jelena faced her whole life at the hands of her father and coach, she has achieved so much and maintained enormous strength from a young age. Jelena’s courageous story will leave you in awe.


Resilience and mental health expert Graeme Cowan is one of Australia’s leading authorities on leadership resilience and creating a mentally healthy work culture. He was instrumental in the development and growth of R U OK Day as a director and board member. Today, Cowan has a wealth of knowledge to share about improving resilience, engagement, and performance at work. His keynote presentations help leaders build their own resilience as well as giving them the tools to pass these skills on to their teams.


For this year’s R U OK? Day, we hope we can all work together to create space for important conversations around mental health. Together we can build a new culture of openness and resilience. You can browse our full range of R U OK? Day speakers here, but if you’d like a more personal touch you should get in contact with us.


Browse RU OK? Day speakers Blog: What we do when we R not OK

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