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The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask

We heard it before, probably answered it a few times as well, but what does it really mean to say you are OK? It’s easy to fall into autopilot mode, finding yourself quickly quipping, “I’m fine, thanks”, but the disconnect between truth and social pleasantry can be overwhelming. For many of us, we simply aren’t fine.

As men, we find ourselves in a constant struggle to toe the line between masculinity and sensitivity, but the tide is turning. Over the years, the traits of toxic behaviour have slowly been whittled down, with more and more celebrities, athletes and influential people stepping forward to share their battles with mental health, but we face a new battle. If the COVID-19 pandemic proved anything, it was just how quickly loneliness and isolation can take hold, festering unwanted feelings.

According to mental health organisation Beyond Blue, one in eight Australian men will experience depression and one in five will experience anxiety at some stage in their lives. It’s a damning statistic, but one that is wholly dwarfed by our suicide rates. Men make up a staggering six out of every eight suicides every single day in Australia, meaning the number of men who take their own lives in Australia each year is nearly double that of the national road toll.

“Stress-related mental health conditions can be associated with other chronic health conditions including sleep apnea, erectile dysfunction, diabetes, cardiac disease and more,” Dr Linda Manoukian, Clinical Psychologist at Vityl says. “Lots of people don’t know the profound link between physical illness, and mental health conditions. It’s important that if someone in your life is suffering from a chronic condition, or another physical health condition, that you reach out and ask them: R U OK?!”

The truth is that mental health does not discriminate. It does not care if you are a sporting star, a high-powered executive or a tradie working on a building site, the black dog can strike anyone. It’s a sad reality we’ve come to know, more often than we’d care to admit. The death of TV icon Anthony Bourdain, for instance, cast the issue in a new light, bringing media attention and support to the global movement. The hashtags emerged and the conversation reignited; one that could change a life.

Each year, the 8 September marks R U OK? Day, an annual opportunity to remove the mask of alpha-male structures and show compassion and understanding for your fellow man. Take the time to ask the question, but more importantly, to listen to the answer. We know now that simply opening a dialogue can create an avenue for growth. With so many Aussie men feeling alone, isolated and without support, the need to reach out is more significant than ever. There’s no doubt the last few years have been tough on all of us, but what better time to have the tough conversations? It could even start at home.

So, next time the question arises, switch off the autopilot and answer honestly.

If you’d like to get involved and share your support for R U OK? Day, visit the link below. Your support could mean more than you know.

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