R U OK? Day 2021

Today is R U OK? Day. This year the message is: “Are they really OK? Ask them today”. 

Encouraging all Australians to ask their friends, families and colleagues a question of “are you okay?” has arguably never been more important than now, and there is no better day to ask than today as Thursday 9 September marks national R U OK? Day. 

R U OK? Day is a campaign which aims to promote awareness around mental health and suicide by encouraging all Australians to reach out and check in on their friends, family and colleagues by asking a simple conversation starting question – “are you okay?” – because a conversation could change, or even save, a life. 

This year RU OK? has launched “Are they really OK?” Ask them today,’ to encourage Australians to think about how the people in their world are really going. 

Are they really OK?” Ask them today,’ comes in response to new research which found 22% of Australians aren’t reaching out to ask “are you OK?” because there hasn’t’ been an occasion where they felt someone needed their help. 

Life as an elite athlete is a stressful business — particularly during a global pandemic. 

Our athletes have faced unprecedented challenges over the last 18 months but have shown resilience and determination to keep motivated and train, with many innovative approaches being adopted and different paths to achieve their dreams. 

Many had to overcome several obstacles and uncertainties in order to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. We checked in with some of our scholarship holders post Games to ask, “are you okay”. 

After representing Australia in over 230 international games, Rachael Lynch has experienced everything on the hockey pitch. The highs of winning gold medals at Commonwealth Games’ and Champions Trophies, to the lows of losing matches in heartbreaking fashion, and most recently a devastating early exit from the Tokyo Olympics following a shock 1-0 loss to India in the quarter-finals. 

A registered nurse and mental health ambassador when not patrolling the net for the Hockeyroos, there are few better or more qualified than Rachael to speak about the challenges you face being an elite athlete. 

Hey Rach! Are you OK? 

I am great. I have had a huge year and I’m very aware of the struggles many continue to have due to Covid so feel so grateful right now to be where I am and to have done what I’ve done this year. 

Are you really OK? 

I certainly wasn’t for 3 months at the start of this year. Thanks to a horrible, horrible experience I had with hockey, I ended up in a very dark place. I was asked the question often by friends and family and for the majority of that time the answer was no. I felt safe enough to say that and comfortable with the fact that I knew I would be ok in the end but I had to ride it out and keep putting one foot in front of the other. 

What have been your key self-care activities since the Games have finished? 

Since the Games have finished I’ve spent a lot of time writing, reflecting and having great conversations with team mates, friends, family and media. This has allowed me to process all that went on and figure out the various key elements to my story. I’ve maintained regular exercise but in ways that I enjoy and I’ve gone back to work where I have a sense of purpose. I’ve organised fun and challenging things (talks, travel, networking) as that gets me excited about the future 

What message might you have for the wider VIS community about RU OK? Day and Mental Health awareness? 

Melbourne’s current situation is quite possibly an extension of some of the hardest times Melbournians have had to face. My heart goes out to everyone! My advice would be to keep being kind to yourself. Know what gives you an emotional boost and factor that in to each day where you can. Your mental health and well-being will be getting challenged so find those activities/people/actions that make you feel good and do them as often as you can. Send a care package to a friend, sit outside for five minutes and notice the sun on your back, read a new book, watch the Paralympics or a funny video, pat your pet’s fur and really notice the softness. Being in the moment can be a great escape from the stress of current life. 

In 2020, water polo star Rowie Webster had to make significant career sacrifices in order to achieve her goal of competing at a third Olympic Games, so when the announcement was made that Tokyo would be postponed, it was a heavy blow for her mentally. 

But it came as no surprise to anyone at the Victorian Institute of Sport, to see Rowie not only rise to the challenge of setting her sights on 2021, but also offer mental health support and wellbeing advice to her fellow athletes. 

Head down, bum up, she worked hard and achieved her goal of representing Australia at another Olympic Games, and was ecstatic to be named as Captain. And while Rowie and the Aussie Stingers had high hopes of medaling at the Games, it unfortunately wasn’t to be. 

We checked in with Rowie post Games while in quarantine in Howard Springs; 

Are you OK? 

Yes I am ok, thank you for asking. 

Are you really OK? 

Each day has its challenges with the Olympic Games “come down” and the disappointment of results. But yes, I am ok. 

What have been your key self-care activities since the Games have finished? 

Have meaningful conversations, ask others who have been in your direct situation and ask if they are ok. Discuss and support. 

If you have a tough day what helps you to re-set and re-focus for the next day? 

Have a purpose for the day. Big or small. Allow yourself to grieve or reflect. Drink coffee, exercise, and surround yourself with people you love. 

The Victorian Institute of Sport encourages all coaches, athletes and our sport community to take time on Thursday 9 September to reflect on R U OK? Day and how we each make time in our relationships for asking R U OK? and remember, there is more to say after R U OK? 

RU OK? has released free resources to help you feel more confident asking friends and loved ones hoe they’re really going. You can download the resources, including a guide to supporting RU OK? Day, a conversation guide, posters, social media times and more here

If you or someone you know needs some extra support, visit RU OK? Day’s directort of national support services: Where can I get help | R U OK?

For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline (24/7) 13 11 14 lifeline.org.au 

Other useful contacts for someone who is not OK: 

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