R U Ok? has launched a Stronger Together, “I ask my mob, in my way, are you Ok?” a suicide prevention campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
With many parts of Australia being in lockdown to deal with COVID-19 outbreaks, the campaign encourages people to engage with and support their family and friends going through difficult times.
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Star Observer spoke with Dr Vanessa Lee-Ah Mat, Chair of the Advisory Group for the Stronger Together campaign. Dr Lee-Ah Mat is also the co-chair for ILGA Oceania (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association). She works on human rights and social change for LGBTQIA+ for 12 countries in the Pacific.
“I encourage anyone who is going to come out to try and find their person of trust, it may even be a circle of people. That’s why I want to be a part of R U OK? even more. It's because of that conversation I had.”
— R U OK? (@ruokday) July 26, 2021
“It is about ensuring that we have that capacity building in the agency to make sure that all the voices are heard, and all the voices are addressed.”
Around 73% of the participants in the study reported experiencing discrimination in the past 12 months, including teasing, being outed, followed in public, or being victims of physical violence. A third of participants felt invisible in their community, and 37% had difficulty making Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and LGBTQIA+ friends.
Dr Lee-Ah Mat said it was important for conversations to start; they could also be through agreed gestures or phrases to ensure the other person is ok.
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How do we know if someone trusts us? How do we build trust?
The We Need To Talk podcast dives deep into trust waters, chatting to mental health advocates Sara Strawn and Rachel Kohler about what trust means in the LGBTIQA+ community. Take a listen: https://t.co/OdTbULGEjs #ruok pic.twitter.com/gZOHEZ7fCG
— R U OK? (@ruokday) July 13, 2021
The campaign website resources include videos, conversation guides and kits and stories discussed with community members in collaboration with the R U Ok? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group and Brisbane Indigenous Media Association. These resources endorse a sense of connection, hope and identity.
The videos explain that asking friends if they are ok can be verbal, in welcoming and colloquial terms, or gestures like a head nod. They can also be letting the friend know they can always chat or sending a message.
“A lot of people asked how do we start [the conversation]? And that’s when we came up with, ask mob in your way, are you ok? That would be culturally specific to you and your mob, or your gender, your class, your sexuality; wherever you are in society.”
R U Ok? is a non-profit suicide prevention organisation founded in 2009. R U Ok? Day is an annual reminder held on the second Thursday of September that every day is the chance to start a meaningful conversation.
For 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14
For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.