The road to Hell I’m told is paved with good intentions, and I fear that R U OK day is going to be one of the pavestones.

The premise is excellent. A call to arms once a year to get people talking about that most awkward of things ‘FEELINGS’.  It’s a beautiful legacy from a son to a father. It’s a beautiful legacy for that son’s family. It’s a bloody good idea.  We should do more talking about feelings.

But R U OK day has become so irrepressibly PERKY that it’s actually really irritating. On RUOK day I turn into one of those curmudgeonly types muttering darkly under my breath wishing that people would take their RUOK memes and shove them up their derrieres.

Why? Because for every RUOK meme posted without thought, there are a billion other posts that go up telling us time in nature is the only medicine you need for a sad brain, that a hug from a friend will fix it, that if you eat better, drink better, exercise more, your brain will be magically fixed.  RUOK day seems to give rise to some Pete Evans level bollocks that depression can be fixed with some positivity.

The brain is a physical in the same way as your leg is a physical thing.  Sometimes depression lasts the same amount of time as a broken leg.  And six weeks of medical intervention followed by some therapy fixes it and you’re as right as rain.  But sometimes depression is more like an amputation, it’s something you live with for life and you have to work out what that looks like and how that’s going to work.  There are going to be good days, there are going to be bad days, there are going to be days you can cope on your own and days you need other people, but one thing is for sure, there is going to be medical intervention and no fucking magic cure.

RUOK should be one of those daily habits that make you a better person in the same way as going for a run or eating more grains. Every single day of your life you should be thinking about the people you care about in your life and thinking ‘who needs me today?’ because you can bet your bottom dollar somebody will.  They might not be depressed but they might be feeling angry because of work, or sad because they can’t go to Melbourne to see friends, or they might just be feeling grumpy because of hormones. Or whatever.

If people are having a rough time, don’t wait to be asked. A person that is living with depression or is even just having a really hard time is not going to ask for help.  To ask for help is the most UNAUSTRALIAN of things to do.  Especially if you’re male. And yet, collectively men are the worst at getting together with friends for no reason at all or talking about their feelings. Which is why the stats on men’s mental health have such tragic outcomes.

So just do it. If you are worried about somebody – even if you don’t know why and they won’t meet you for a drink, show up on their doorstep with a bottle of wine or coffee or whatever feels right.  The only thing more UNAUSTRALIAN than talking about your feelings is turning people away, so they’ll let you in.  Even if they don’t want to.

And practice.  Practice talking about your feelings.  If somebody says “Alright then?” say ‘Actually yes, today I’m feeling chipper even though this week I’ve been quite grumpy for reasons I can’t put my finger on’.  Sure you’ll flummox them with this verbal outpouring but its way more interesting than just saying ‘fine’.  And the more we get comfortable with our own feelings, the more comfortable we get with other people’s feelings.

For those that are looking for next level exercises to try, next time you’re feeling like exploding – just go into your back yard and yell like you’re two years old and somebody gave you the wrong blue cup.  It’ll be cathartic and you’ll realise that kids know stuff we’ve forgotten.  It’s okay to have the feelings, it’s okay to feel the feelings, it’s okay to express the feelings.

And if you can see somebody needs proper help, don’t send them a bloody meme with sunshine on it and tell them to buck up. And don’t assume somebody else is helping. It’s better to piss a friend off trying to help them than saying pointlessly at their funeral “Why didn’t they just ask for help?”. Depression doesn’t work like that.  Depression is an absolute fucker and an anti-social one at that.

Make RUOK a genuine habit, not a Hallmark greeting.



(Image credit Image by 建鹏 邵 via Pixabay)