We get asked it every day, but how often have really thought about the question? Moreover, how many times have you answered it truthfully? It’s easy to fall into autopilot mode, finding yourself quickly quipping, “good, thanks”, but the disparity between your true feelings and the pleasantries of social etiquette 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. 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 while the stigma is lifting and the tide is certainly turning, the statistics show Aussie men are in dire need of support.
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.
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.
This Thursday 10 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 2020 has been tough on all of us, but what better time to have the tough conversation than now?
So, next time the question arises, switch off the autopilot and answer honestly.
Are you OK?