Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 10 Hansard (Thursday, 14 September 2017) . . Page.. 3744 ..
MR RATTENBURY: I thank Ms Cheyne for the question and I welcome the fact that many members are supporting today’s important R U OK? national day, which traditionally takes place on the second Thursday in September. It is a very important initiative. I think the premise behind it is very powerful. R U OK? is a national suicide prevention charity dedicated to encouraging and empowering everyone to ask the simple question: are you okay?
The vision is a world where we are all connected and protected from suicide. The premise behind this charity is that simply asking the question and expressing concern is a powerful way to minimise isolation, for people to realise that they are not alone, that they can reach out and seek support when they are struggling with their sense of themselves and possibly contemplating suicide.
The ACT government is a strong supporter of this initiative. We were very pleased to welcome the R U OK? conversation convoy into Canberra recently. They had been travelling around the country for an extended period of time. They were in Canberra on 30 August. They had been on the road for six weeks travelling around 14,000 kilometres and visiting 20 communities during that tour.
I was very pleased to welcome them here. I was particularly appreciative of an event held over near Parliament House by the commonwealth Treasury department led by the secretary to that department. I think the great leadership shown by the secretary in having all his staff participate in a program like that was a good example of what can be done, particularly for those in leadership positions, to indicate that it is okay to seek help and also encourage others to offer that help where it is needed.
MS CHEYNE: Minister, what is the importance of encouraging people in our community to reach out to friends, loved ones and colleagues and simply ask—seriously—“Are you OK?”?
MR RATTENBURY: The research undertaken by the R U OK? foundation has identified that many people are worried that they do not have the skills to reach out. The good news is that 70 per cent of respondents said they felt comfortable asking that question, but obviously around 30 per cent felt they were not. The reasons why they did not feel comfortable included not knowing what to say if someone did raise a concern, worrying that they might make it worse, and worrying that the person they asked might get angry. Some felt that they were not expert enough and that if they did ask the question and get a response they would not know how to proceed. Some of these conversations are too big for friends, but the important part is simply asking the opening question.
The R U OK? foundation has posited a four-step model which is a good one to think about. The first step is simply the question “Are you OK?” The second is to actively listen to the response, to simply be a listening ear, not needing to provide an answer straightaway. Some of us have a tendency sometimes to feel like we need all of the answers. The third step is to encourage action. That does not mean you need to have the answers yourself; perhaps it means encouraging someone to reach out to a mental