Recently, on a quest chasing yowies down a flooded creek in the dark, my friend fell in the mud. I rushed over to assist with more enthusiasm than skill. We both ended up in a puddle, laughing too hard to get up. Friends help friends when they trip into puddles, even if it means sitting in the mud with them.

September 10th is ‘R U OK’ day, a beautiful campaign that is all about having really honest conversations around mental health and how we are travelling.

R U OK day is a reminder to check in with the people in our lives. We shouldn’t need a campaign and brightly coloured banners to remind us to do this, which is exactly the message of the campaign: every day is the day to check-in. This is why I decided to begin reflecting on R U OK day well in advance, so we don’t trip over it in our social media feed or on the TV and pay lip-service to the campaign.

It is so easy to get caught up in our own troubles and dramas. A campaign like this is a valuable reminder that there are fellow travellers on this journey of life. It’s also a timely reminder that it’s okay to not be okay.

As we move toward the 10th of September, let’s take a moment to check in with our introverts, exhausted and depleted by social events, who may slip off our radar. Let’s check in with the folk doing battle with their demons daily, or navigating a landscape of mental health issues. Let’s check in with the weary travellers, the ones walking extra miles due to trauma or tragedy, the ones dragging a burden of people and events and stories.

Let’s check in with the passionate, delicate, creative souls in our community. Let’s check in with the gentle, kind carers who devote their lives to helping others, to the worriers, to the people who feel stuck, struggling to find traction.

Let’s also check in with ourselves. How are we travelling? If the world feels stuck or bleak, perhaps it's time to name the problem to ourselves and others, to take that intensely courageous step of answering “R U OK” honestly?

The message for the campaign is simple:

1. Ask

2. Listen

3. Encourage Action

4. Check-in

The creative space is often an isolating space. Creativity puts a lot of focus on inception, on weaving something tangible out of the intangible. It can be a crushing, thankless, disappointing space that skews our perspectives and shrinks our focus to the trees, losing sight of the forest.

Focusing on our dreams and courageously wrestling our disappointments is important, but we need to come up for a breath now and then. We need to check in with ourselves and others and, when things start to come unstuck or don’t fit together the way they used to, we need to name this and reach out for tools and resources and support.

There is no reason to sit in muddy puddles by ourselves. Reach out to a friend or a service!

If a friend asks you for help, you don’t need to have the answers. Take a seat next to them and figure it out together.

The stigma attached to mental health issues is easing, but we are still limping behind the concept that mental health, like physical health, is a thing that needs to be monitored, discussed, checked-up on, and sometimes overhauled for a healthier lifestyle.

Is it time to check in with a fellow traveller on your journey?

Is it time to be honest when someone next asks you: R U OK?

As we cruise towards R U OK day, what could you do in your community, workplace or social network to get the conversation about mental health, support and checking-in going?

First published on my website 6 August 2020

Nicole writes short stories and novel length speculative fiction and a weekly blog https://nicolewalshauthor.com/ or www.facebook.com/nicolewalshauthor