A few thoughts on #RUOK Day 2016

I’ve been pretty snarky on Twitter this morning about #RUOK Day, and I felt like I need to expand a little on my thoughts.

In principle, I’m not opposed to the idea of R U OK Day. In practice, sometimes it feels a little less like the creator of the day intended, and a lot more like hashtag activism.

Fundamentally, my issue is this: Asking someone “Are you OK?” is an inherently intimate question. You’re opening a dialogue. This is not “How was your weekend?” or “Have you seen Stranger Things?”.

You’re asking someone to open up to you about one of the most private areas of their lives – what’s going on inside their mind. Asking “R U OK?” may reveal things that have the potential to affect their career, if that information is abused by an employer or co-workers lacking in ethics.

Asking #R U OK is not a way for you to hit your virtue target for the day. If you want to do that, go and donate to Beyond Blue or Sane or headspace, or some other mental health organisation.

Don’t ask someone “R U OK?”, unless you’re prepared for that person to say “No, I’m not”. I don’t think you can just respond to that with “Here’s a URL to check out. Feel better. See ya later.”

One of the most paralysing parts of dealing with mental health issues is the sense of isolation it causes. Please don’t make that isolation worse by making it look like you’re willing to bridge that moat, if asking “R U OK?” is just another task on your to-do list.

Also, as someone who’s lived with both anxiety & depression for my entire adult life, if you ask me “R U OK?” today, my answer is “yes”. Several weeks ago, the answer was “no”. In a few weeks time, the answer might be “no” again. This time last year, based on the draft post I found when I logged in to write this, the answer was “Oh, hell no!”

That’s what it’s like to live with a chronic mental illness.

Today, before you ask someone “R U OK?”, please consider this: If that person is willing to open up to you, and you’re not prepared to walk at least part of the journey with them, don’t ask the question.

If you are, thank you.

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