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Townsville Support Services Officer, Bethany Harrison, shares a guest blog in support of RU OK? Day.

I’m feeling very proud to be asked to contribute a guest blog for R U OK? Day today. I’m a big fan of this initiative. It’s just such a simple and powerful idea that can really make a difference.   

As the Townsville KINNECT team’s Culture Rep, I see it as one of my jobs to helps create a welcoming and supportive and safe atmosphere for our team. Building rapport, friendships and trust are so important if you are to be able to ask ‘R U OK?’, or to have someone open up in response. 

This year, I feel like it’s even more important than ever too. At KINNECT, we have so many colleagues who are stuck in lockdowns right now. We have colleagues who are balancing remote working while homeschooling and sharing space 24/7 with their partners or flatmates. We have colleagues stuck on the wrong side of state borders who had their lives turned upside down. It’s pretty intense. 

Even if you aren’t in a lockdown, with the general state of the world, it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed. That’s why it’s so important that we check in on each other. That is what RUOK? is all about. A conversation might help change someone’s day or even someone’s life.  

Why this matters to me 

Bethany and her mum pictured on their annual walk for suicide awareness.

Unfortunately, I know only too well the tragic consequences of losing someone to mental health issues. My mum lost her two siblings (my aunt and then my uncle) to suicide during my childhood. Since these awful losses, my family have put a firm focus on the importance of talking about mental health and supporting organisations like Lifeline and Beyond Blue.  

Tomorrow (which is also International Suicide Prevention Day), I’ll join mum as she leads ‘out of the shadows and into the light’ a walk she established in memory of my uncle. It commences in the darkness and finishes as the sun rises at the pier in Townsville.  The point is to remind people that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

Our work family can play an important role 

As colleagues, we often spend a lot of time together and see and talk to each other more than our own families. So, we are often very well-placed to notice when someone isn’t doing well and to ‘bring the light’. But it takes some courage to act on this. 

At work today (Thursday 9 September) we have an RUOK? Ambassador, Cressida Ward, joining us for a virtual conversation starter across KINNECT and reminding everyone that it’s not about today, but every day. We’ll be reminding KINNECTers how they can bring a little light by asking R U OK?, but also about the follow up: how to listen, encourage action and check in with their colleagues. 

As I suspect we could all use a little sugar lift, 240 special RUOK? sugar cookies have been baked with love and dispatched to our teams across the nation to remind them we’re here for each other. I’ve got to give huge thanks to my colleague Eloise O’Maley for orchestrating this massive endeavour and finding such a sweet way to send such an important message. 

And finally, to my fellow KINNECTers, wherever you are, my message to you is that even in the darkest of places, there is always light.  



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