You wouldn’t think footy star Wendell Sailor would have to worry about bullying, but he admits he was bullied at school and that’s why he is keen to promote R U OK? at School. Wendell was at the recent launch of this new program that encourages students to check in with their mates and ask them, “are you ok?”
Wendell has been involved with the campaign from the beginning. He is passionate about the program because he has personal experience of bullying . He wants to remind kids to put their hands up and say “it’s not ok” if they are struggling with things.
“I know how traumatic it can be to suffer from bullying at school and I urge kids to reach out to each other if they see a friend in need. It may seem like a hard thing to do, but don’t be afraid to speak out if you are not ok,” says Wendell.
National suicide prevention organisation, the R U OK? Foundation, recently launched a schools-focused mental health program aimed at encouraging students to start talking about their emotional wellbeing.
A founder of R U OK? Day, Janina Nearn says the new schools campaign targets rural and remote youth as well as young people in the cities.
“We have a lot of different communities getting behind R U OK? Day. We recently ran workshops in Wilcannia with the Elders as well as with Indigenous students from Shalvey College in St Marys, Sydney,” she says.
“This resulted in the creation of the R U OK? Communities project, which celebrates community, culture and heritage – all important factors in wellbeing.”
Janina says the R U OK? at Schools program is focused on building resilience and helping young people to cope with issues that can continue into adulthood.
“It’s about helping students understand how they can support their friends. It is also about when it’s appropriate to get expert help or flag the issue with an adult or school counsellor. We like to focus on what we can do to help those problems from getting bigger – whether it is exam stress or homework, by putting strategies in place for regular conversations.”
The dedicated schools-based program delivers relevant educational support to both students and teachers on topics including peer support and how to manage school pressures.
The schools program complements the message of R U OK?Day on 13 September, which aims to promote the importance of regular connection with others in an effort to help reduce Australia’s high suicide rate.
The day encourages people to connect with someone they care about, and help prevent little problems from becoming big ones.
“On that day, everyone across the country, from all backgrounds and walks of life, are encouraged to ask family, friends and colleagues a simple question: “Are you ok?,” she says.
She says over four years, R U OK?Day has grown rapidly. Last year’s campaign reached 58% of Australians, while one in five took part in the day.
“This year we want to increase participation and get more people asking questions of their friends as well as running events to remind people to ask the question throughout the year,” she says.
“R U OK?Day™ is a positive message, celebrating life. It is for everyone rather than just those at risk. We are not a charity. We are asking people to have conversations rather than put their hands in their pockets.”
Janina says the program is linked closely to other information partners, such as Reachout.com, Sane, Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Mensline and Kids Helpline.