Trinity asks R U OK?John Blois
Each year, R U OK? Day is recognised by organisations, schools and individuals around Australia, as they ask their friends, and family a simple question to start a big conversation: “Are you okay?”
R U OK? Day began in 2009 and since then has grown exponentially to become well known all over Australia. The mission of the day, and the organisation behind it, is to spark the important conversation about mental health and to equip everyone with the skills and confidence to support those who may be struggling with life’s challenges. The day asks everyone to go beyond their friends and family, to also seek out those who may feel alone and disconnected, and to include them in the conversation.
Each year, Trinity Grammar School promotes R U OK? Day as an avenue to raise mental health awareness, encourage connection and care, and normalise seeking help.
Psychologist, Ms Sandi Bell, is excited that the plans for the day are able to go ahead this year after two years of COVID-related interruptions.
“Over the last two years, we haven’t been able to do the in-person R U OK? activities, so we’re all enthusiastic to have some fun and raise awareness of mental health, and the importance of building on wellbeing, and resilience, especially in light of the adversity and challenges of the past few years,” she says.
Nearly half (43.7%) of Australians experience mental illness at some point in their lifetime, with anxiety and depression being the most common. The pandemic has led to increased levels of psychological distress and the need for mental health services. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHW), 15.4% of Australians aged 16-85 years experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2020-2021.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that increased stress was the strongest predictor of psychological distress, alongside increased loneliness, job loss, and worsening relationships.
There’s no doubt that the last two years have taken a toll on many. More people are experiencing high levels of psychological distress, and those who were already vulnerable are further challenged, making the conversation, care, and connection that R U OK? Day encourages even more important.
“Through R U OK? Day, students and the School community are informed about the signs to look out for if someone is struggling and may need support,” Sandi says. “We make sure they have information and resources at hand to understand how to get further help.”
On Trinity’s Summer Hill campus, staff are encouraged to wear a ‘splash of yellow’ for the day and a morning tea is hosted by the Common Room Association to acknowledge the heart and soul teachers and support staff put into the School. They are also given a yellow gerbera to symbolise R U OK? Day.
Throughout the School, posters and messages are given prime real estate to make it easier for students and staff alike to start the important conversation with their friends and colleagues.
The students from Archer House are also involved in fundraising activities, selling merchandise and chocolates, as well as cooking up a storm on the BBQ and holding presentations and performances at the Quad assembly. The funds raised from their efforts are donated to a youth-focused mental health service, chosen by the students themselves.
“I hope that students, staff, families and Trinity as an organisation can continue to provide support, care, and kindness to each other, and see how we all benefit and thrive together,” Sandi says.
However, she’s adamant that these efforts aren’t just for one big day, noting that the caring conversations and connection to others is a daily, year-round action we can all be taking.
“It serves as a reminder to be there for each other all year ‘round,” she reiterates.
For staff in particular, there is a range of different support available including access to the gym and fitness classes and support within faculties from colleagues and mentors.
The Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is also another source of support for staff. The programme is in place to ensure employees are mentally healthy and positive about work and life, providing employees and their families with a confidential counselling programme that can help them cope with stress, mental illness and other issues.
EAP counsellors are independent of Trinity and can help employees with various work-related and personal problems, including but not limited to:
- Personal worries, doubts, or fears
- Work-related stress/problems with colleagues
- Domestic violence
- Health issues
- Financial problems
The service is free for staff, designed to provide short-term, solutions-focused assistance.
“This is a big and busy School and a world with a lot of challenges and demands – I hope a focus on R U OK? Day will encourage our young people, staff and community members to reach out, step forward and speak up when times are difficult and some care, support, or understanding is needed,” adds Sandi.
This year, R U OK? Day is taking place on Thursday, the 8th September. A conversation can change a life. Find out more on the website and be sure to start a conversation with your loved ones.