R U OK?

Today is R U OK? day. It’s an annual day nominated by the R U OK? suicide prevention charity to think about the people in our lives and consider if they are okay. More than that, it’s a day to take ourselves in hand, try to be brave and open a conversation if we think someone we know is struggling. Of course this is something that should happen every day. But today is a day to revive our intentions to be a good mate to our family, friends, colleagues, anyone we bump up against in our daily lives. It’s a day to understand a bit more about what drives people to consider suicide, and to learn ways that we can safely help them.

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I’d love each one of you my readers to check out the R U OK? website. Just pick one topic and give 5 minutes of your time to taking on some new knowledge, or understanding, or strategy. It really can change and even save a life. It’s that important.

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Some of the topics I think are great are Mates, resources for every day, news stories and information, but I’m sure you’ll find the topic that makes most sense, or means the most to you.

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I’ve been a mental health advocate (at least I think I have been) for a lot longer than I’ve been ill with mental illness. By that I mean that I’ve considered mentally ill people the same as myself just with a condition requiring treatment, and tried to show to others that they don’t need to be feared. As a child I was used to being around mentally unwell patients. One family friend had schizophrenia and another had bipolar disorder. We saw them regularly, saw them better and worse, visited them in hospital and knew they were just people like the rest of us. And they were just the people who had known, obvious, must-be-treated illnesses. Who knows how many people in my acquaintance had depression or anxiety that was more or less invisible. I wouldn’t know. It was never talked about. If they were there, I never knew. Which is a terrible shame.

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So today is about conversations. I want people to have conversations. But first of all I want to tell you why R U OK? as a charity and a question is so important to me.

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When I was depressed or anxious, I felt awful. I was barely dragging myself around, limping from bed to work and from work to bed. My brain was either whizzing or sluggish; it wasn’t very useful. I felt like all of this must be pasted across my face, and that surely someone would notice today that I was struggling and ask me about it. It had to be written on my forehead, I thought, why can no one see it, why is no one wondering what’s wrong with me? I was just dying for someone to see it and come to my aid.

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But nothing happened. I didn’t want to be attention seeking and bring it up myself, I wasn’t one of those people who was always making a fuss. But I was in pain here, it must be obvious. I thought of a hundred ways to bring it up, but I just couldn’t. It was too obvious a way to start a conversation, there was no easy lead in.

“So you’re having tuna for lunch, that’s interesting, did you know that I’m depressed?”

So I dragged myself around, wondering and waiting and hoping that someone would do the hard part for me and bring up so I could let it all pour out. And do you know the funny thing? Having felt so isolated, like no one could see the real me inside, like I was alone in this experience and so on, once I was officially sick and had told people about it, I had several comments along the lines “oh I thought so” and “I figured something was wrong” and “I knew something wasn’t right” and “you didn’t seem like your usual self”. If just one, only one person had actually said that out loud, it would have been such a relief, a balm, a comfort! It probably would have meant that I got help sooner. It could’ve shorten the process, and I would have been so thankful. It would’ve meant such a lot.

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Speak up. If you can see a change, say something. If things seem different, say so. The worst that can happen is that you’re wrong, and they are just having a bad day or week, or are preoccupied. But how can it hurt? At the least, I’m sure they’ll appreciate your concern, the effort that you’ve gone to, your care. It would be a rare person who would take exception to your kind heart.

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The second part is knowing what to say. The reason for this charity’s name is that R U OK? is a powerful question. It might not seem like it, or seem much different to our usual greetings, but it works. We say hello, hi, howdy, how are you going? what’s up? how’s it going? how’s things? alright? and a hundred similar things so many times a day. And we’re programmed to response almost rote: good thanks, hey there, great, how about you? not much, well, yep and so on. So much so that if someone says something different to these, we can accidentally get caught saying good thanks before we’ve even registered that they’ve asked us what’s up?!

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But R U OK? hits a different nerve. It makes us really think about how we are, and it elicits an honest answer.

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So here’s what I want to do. I want you, one day over the next day or two, to count how many greeting encounters you have in one day. I consider one encounter to be one person say hello and/or how are you and the other person responding. Now I know for myself, home most days, there aren’t very many encounters. But for people working in retail there might be many, maybe more than what I’ve allowed for. I really want to know what your number is! Please get involved and let’s see how many times we bump up against each other each day.

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I’ll post the results as early as possible once you’ve had a chance to respond with data from your working life today and tomorrow. If you don’t read this until the weekend, give me your weekend numbers too.

My aim for this poll is to think about how many times we have a typical hi/how are you conversation. The next step after this is to consider what might happen if we changed ONE of these rote conventional habits into an R U OK? conversation. What could U achieve, how could U have an impact on someone else’s life? You already read my tales of mental illness, so you already have a kind heart and I daresay you want to help others too. This is the perfect chance, and I hope to take the baton and run with it.

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Nesting

I have to say that in all the years I’ve been alive, I’ve never put some much attention towards the world around me, particularly nature, until this year. I’ve always loved nature, but I guess I didn’t have the time, or the attention before. I’ve spent a LOT of my life rushing and I regret that; so now I’m trying to deliberately slow down and enjoy what I have.

This year, I’ve had the time. I haven’t had much energetic time, much enthusiastic time, much motivated time but what I’ve had I’ve used, pretty well I think. Bird watching and photography are almost the only things that will get me excited on a down day – that’s a pretty powerful thing!

Taking notice has led to a weird phenomenon of me finding new things around me that were always there, but I wasn’t looking. I’m so glad that now I’m looking because the reward is great!

Here’s a series that has given me great pleasure this spring – enjoy!

eucalypt, Looks like my kind of throw together nest...not sure that its being used now

Looks like my kind of throw together nest…not sure that its being used now

This was found deep in the thickets around Blond Bay game reserve so it must have been made by birds, but its so neat! Also looks a bit off kilter!

This was found deep in the thickets around Blond Bay game reserve so it must have been made by birds, but its so neat! Also looks a bit off kilter!

Pair of Willy Wagtails have built a perfect little mud nest and take turns to guard it

Pair of Willy Wagtails have built a perfect little mud nest and take turns to guard it

Welcome Swallow building up a new nest, although why they don't use the other one is baffling

Welcome Swallow building up a new nest, although why they don’t use the other one is baffling

The first nest which looks fine from the outside, but they've moved on to build a new one

The first nest which looks fine from the outside, but they’ve moved on to build a new one

Not sure what kind of bird made this but it looks well built

Not sure what kind of bird made this but it looks well built

A Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest very securely located on a broad eucalypt branch

A Tawny Frogmouth sitting on a nest very securely located on a broad eucalypt branch

They tell me this tiny nest belongs to a tiny bird...again can't remember which but something like a Striated Thornbill

They tell me this tiny nest belongs to a tiny bird…again can’t remember which but something like a Striated Thornbill

I can't remember what kind of bird I saw coming out of here - either a Magpie, a Pied Currawong or a Little Raven

I can’t remember what kind of bird I saw coming out of here – either a Magpie, a Pied Currawong or a Little Raven. It flew straight at me as I was trying to get a photo, which distracted me a little! Not deliberately I think

Cape Barren goose with a ground nest inside the safety of Serendip Sanctuary

Cape Barren goose with a ground nest inside the safety of Serendip Sanctuary

A Willy Wagtail built his nest near this busy weekend cafe...and spent the day dancing all around the area - pretty pretty

A Willy Wagtail built his nest near this busy cafe…and spent the day dancing all around the area – pretty pretty

Hope this doesn't hurt your eyes! I'm thinking maybe Swallows make a habit of building multiple nests...I can't figure out which one they're actually using! Incidentally...this is directly over a wedding car!

Hope this blurry photo doesn’t hurt your eyes! I’m thinking maybe Swallows make a habit of building multiple nests…I can’t figure out which one they’re actually using! Incidentally…this is directly over a wedding car!

I think this is a Magpie nest - although I wasn't swooped the Magpie was chattering away

I think this is a Magpie nest – although I wasn’t swooped, the Magpie was chattering away

This is the first time I've seen a Magpie-Lark nest. I was looking at it when they flew back...one onto the nest and one surveying from nearby

This is the first time I’ve seen a Magpie-Lark nest. I was looking at it when they flew back…one onto the nest and one surveying from nearby

This is a fun one, well to me anyways! So far I’ve gotten relatively close to a Magpie nest on three occasions and never been swooped. Maybe its beginners luck…I’ve been swooped by Noisy Miners, pigeons, Welcome Swallows, Magpie-Larks and Willy Wagtails so maybe the Magpies took pity on me!

And this is the Magpie nest high up with the other of the pair sitting on it

And this is the Magpie nest high up with one of the pair sitting on it

Poor quality to boot, but if you peer through the sticks to the far tree, you can see one of the Magpie pair standing watch over the goings on

Poor quality to boot, but if you peer through the sticks to the far tree, you can see one of the Magpie pair standing watch over the goings on