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R U asking the question in your workplace?

Today we are celebrating R U OK? Day, a national initiative to raise awareness about mental health and suicide, and remind us the importance of checking in with others and asking the question, “Are you ok?”

According to Beyond Blue, mental health problems are the leading cause of non-fatal disability in Australia. It’s estimated that nearly half of Australians will experience a mental health condition sometime in their lifetime, and every year approximately 1 million Australians suffer from depression and nearly 2 million experience anxiety. In a survey conducted last year by the Australian Psychological Society, it was revealed that Australians had significantly lower levels of wellbeing and higher levels of stress, distress, and depressive and anxiety symptoms than in previous years. Furthermore, as much as 40% of employee turnover and 60% of absenteeism is caused by work stress and stress-related illness.

R U OK Day is a great opportunity to bring attention to mental health in the workplace and work towards the development of practices that enhance the safety and wellbeing of workers. We are working in increasingly changing, dynamic and challenging work environments that can result in experiences of significant work pressures. This can be further compounded by the challenges of day to day life, including family pressures, finances, and relationship issues. Despite the fact that our colleagues may say they’re ok, sometimes they are not and it’s difficult to detect some of the more subtle signs that someone is suffering from mental illness. Sadly, we have heard far too many stories in recent times about suicide – it’s an important issue that needs to be discussed.

What can we do to combat this issue in the workplace?

As employees, we can best support colleagues by staying connected, offering assistance, creating an inclusive environment and encouraging open discussion about mental health and wellbeing. If we think someone may be struggling, we should reach out and assist them to get help if needed. Some of the common signs and symptoms of mental health issues include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Arriving late for work
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Being unusually teary or emotional
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Finding it hard to meet deadlines
  • Difficulty accepting constructive feedback
  • Difficulty managing time
  • Excessive eating and/or alcohol consumption
  • Loss of confidence
  • No sense of purpose
  • Negative thoughts
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Appearing restless or on edge
  • Avoiding certain people or tasks
  • Becoming easily overwhelmed
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Constant worrying and apprehension
  • Engaging in self-destructive or risk behaviour
  • Withdrawal

In addition, organisations should:

  • Raise awareness about mental health and wellbeing at work
  • Implement policies and procedures to support positive wellbeing practices
  • Ensure managers have adequate training to manage mental health and wellbeing at work
  • Address workplace stigma regarding mental health and take steps to prevent discrimination on the basis of mental health issues
  • Develop health and wellbeing programs that promote positive, preventative strategies
  • Ensure that adequate support is available to employees that may be struggling, such as having an Employee Assistance Program

Today, consider taking time out to chat to a colleague, or a friend or loved one, and check in and ask how they are going. Just remember, a simple question like “Are you ok?” could start off a conversation that changes someone’s life forever… For more information, please visit

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please get help immediately. Ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000 in case of an emergency.

About the author

TMS Consulting