Acknowledging the pain and suffering of First Nations people and the higher rates of suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has prompted suicide prevention organisation R U OK? to launch a targeted campaign aimed at Indigenous Australians.
The ‘I ask my mob, in my way, are you OK?’ campaign encourages First Nations people to engage and offer support to their family, friends and colleagues who may be struggling with life. “The message is so simple and powerful. It is steeped in our cultural practice of being a community and ensuring no one is left behind,” says campaign manager — and Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara and Pertame man — Steven Satour. “It’s really about asking the question and being prepared to listen. It’s not always about fixing the problem right then and there. Being able to articulate your feelings and just have someone listen is a really powerful way to show your support.”
Developed with guidance from the R U OK? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group — which provides professional counsel and voices of lived experience to guide the campaign — the resources feature engaging and authentic stories that promote a sense of connection, hope and identity. “The resources give us the opportunity to get conversations started with individuals, organisations, and communities across Australia,” says Satour.
Reducing deaths by suicide and suicidal behaviour among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is an issue of major concern for many communities and a public health priority. “These numbers represent our loved ones; relatives, friends, elders and extended community members who are all affected by the tragedy of these deaths,” says Satour. Dr Vanessa Lee-Ah Mat is the chair of the R U OK? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group. “Nationally, Indigenous people die from suicide at twice the rate of non-Indigenous people,” says Dr Lee-Ah Mat. “We know that starting conversations early can stop little problems growing into big ones.”
Included among the free suite of resources — available at ruok.org.au — are videos highlighting the many ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can ask, “are you OK?”. Kevin Yow Yeh is a Wakka Wakka and South Sea Islander man who has lent his voice to the campaign. “When I know a friend or a family member is going through some hard time, I reach out by saying, ‘You right or what?’ That allows them to answer yes or no, but also open up about what’s going on in their life,” says Yow Yeh. “The most important thing for mob to remember,” adds Satour, “is that you don’t have to be an expert. You just have to be yourself and ask, in your own way, so you look after your mob.”
- Access the campaign resources here