Encouraging all Australians to ask their friends, families and teammates a question of “are you okay?” has never been more important than now in 2020, and there is no better day to ask than today as Thursday September 10th marks national R U OK? Day.
Dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Australia Hockeyroos goalkeeper Rachael Lynch knows all about the importance of checking in with those around you and asking them “are you okay?” and is encouraging everyone to ask their teammates the question and becoming invested in your team and your sporting organisation.
“Learning about your teammates and the people you’re around is really important because the more you know and understand your teammates, the more you’ll be able to pick up on if somethings not going well for them,” Lynch said.
“Having a bit of a vested interest in each other is pretty important.”
R U OK? Day is a campaign which aims to promote awareness around mental health and suicide by encouraging all Australians to reach out and check in on their friends, family and teammates by asking a simple conversation starting question – “are you okay?” – because a conversation could change a life
Earlier this year, the R U OK? organisation launched another exciting initiative called “Hey Sport, R U OK?”.
The “Hey Sport, R U OK?” initiative promotes creating an ‘R U OK? Culture’ of mutual respect, trust, authenticity and a shared willingness to support those in the grassroots sporting community who might be struggling with the hidden challenges of mental health, challenges faced even by elite athletes.
After representing Australia in over 220 international games, Rachael Lynch has experienced everything on the hockey pitch. The highs of winning gold medals at Commonwealth Games and winning five Champions Trophys, to the lows of losing matches in heartbreaking fashion, but it is away from the pitch where the champion goalkeeper is making an even greater impact for sports as an ambassador for R U OK? Day.
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@rachlynch is a champion on the pitch for the @hockeyroosofficial and she's a champion off of it as a @ruokday ambassador and this year the @hockeyaustraliaofficial is encouraging all Australians to ask their friends, families and teammates a question of “R U OK?” The “Hey Sport, R U OK?” initiative promotes creating an ‘R U OK? Culture’ (@ruokday) of mutual respect, trust, authenticity and a shared willingness to support those in the grassroots sporting community who might be struggling with the hidden challenges of mental health, challenges faced even by elite athletes. #RUOK #HeySportRUOK #RUOKEveryday
“I joined R U OK? about seven or eight years ago, I really loved the concept,” Lynch said.
“I saw it as an avenue to be able to make a difference in the mental health and well-being space… I just loved the idea of connecting, talking engaging with people to help each other out and potentially prevent things from escalating.”
A registered nurse when not patrolling the net for the Hockeyroos, there are few better or more qualified than Lynch to speak about the challenges which you face being an elite athlete.
The “Hey Sport, R U OK?” initiative aims to provide resources and education to community coaches in a bid to help them spot the signs that one of their athletes, players or sporting colleagues may be struggling.
As an athlete and coach herself, Lynch can see the importance of establishing the right culture within sporting organisations and providing coaches with the right skillset to be able to spot any danger signs.
“Often coaches are volunteers, they don’t necessarily have the skillset, but might get put in scenarios where they’re required to be an accidental counsellor and support people,” Lynch said.
“So to be able to provide some extra support to them, where they can upskill and build their confidence to be able to support young athletes and other people in their club with their mental health is really important.”
After a year which has been unlike any other and as some sporting organisations and community sports begin to resume in the coming weeks and months, present an opportunity for teammates to check in on one another. For Lynch, she will be asking the question to her Hockeyroos teammates as they return to their training ahead of currently planned international games in 2021, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics scheduled for July and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“We’ve got international games scheduled for next year, but it obviously all depends on the borders being opened,” Lynch said.
“So we’ve just got to keep training and looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics and then the Birmingham Games.”
#RUOKDay is on Thursday 10 September and is a reminder that a conversation could change a life.
This year we are learning what to say after R U OK? so we can keep the conversation going when someone says “No, I’m not OK”. Resources are available at www.ruok.org.au
#RUOK is an important question but there’s more to say after R U OK? If someone says they’re not OK, make time to listen, encourage action and check-in. That conversation could change, or even save, their life.
You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a really positive difference to their life
Commonwealth Games Australia encourages all coaches, athletes and our sport community to take time on Thursday 10 September to reflect on R U OK? Day and how we each make time in our relationships for asking R U OK? and remember, there is more to say after R U OK?
Commonwealth Games Australia staff will host a virtual lunch on Thursday 10 September to highlight R U OK? Day and the importance of creating space for conversations.
More on R U OK?
People are also encouraged to learn what to say after R U OK? and download R U OK? resources from ruok.org.au for tips and ideas to help them share the message in their community.
Useful contacts for someone who is not OK – Encourage them to talk to a trusted health professional or call on these Australian crisis lines and professionals: