RUOK Day has come and gone. Let’s all get back to watching the rugby…
I know, I know. This is not a binary choice either way. It is good to be critical, and it is also good to try. You never know the consequence of your actions.
This post is about RUOK Day- it was earlier this week, and you can read my post that I posted then here.
The point is that all too often ‘raising awareness’ ends once the enthusiasm from the celebrity laced event concludes. It becomes namedropping collateral, humblebrag for another time. Or is it?
Yes, I jest. Sort of. My point is though that if we care, then we should do more than just be satisfied with a minimalist approach to slacktivism.
This blog is about improving child survival. My earlier post was about improving mental health among veterans. Where is the connection?
This is what is on my mind: too often there is great enthusiasm to talk about an initiative, especially among politicians. After the press brief, it is back to business as usual. Not for those who are in the thick of it. Not for veterans struggling. And importantly not in the remote villages where child mortality is an unwanted blight.
No, while these things still prevail, I am not ok. And neither should you be.
Well, are you?
RUOK? A campaign which began in 2009 as an initiative of an Australian whose father was lost to suicide. The rationale is that many more people consider or attempt suicide that actually are successful, and that by having one day a year to ask this question it might raise awareness to help those who are struggling.
In some respects, RUOK? and the 22 Push-up Challenge are examples of “slacktivism”. An intervention which requires the bare minimum of effort. The collective effort is seen as the benefit of this intervention.
Many people ask whether this is of any value. It is a fair question.
Consider this: if someone is really struggling and you ask them “RUOK?” can you really expect for them to give you an honest answer. Our default towards avoiding pain and shame is that we will mostly brush off the question with a polite smile, and possibly even the even result in a stinging sense of alienation because the question seems to be so superficial.
So what is the alternative? Is it better not to ask?
Derek Weida is an American Iraq War veteran whose leg was amputated as a result of injuries while sustain on duty. He is is skilfully provocative with his posts on Facebook. Far from just seeking attention, I really believe he cares about what he talks about. Recently, he gave a lot of focus to ranting about the 22 Push Up Challenge. His view that people we far too obsessed with the number 22. Rather than being focused on strengths, it pushed us into a culture of victimhood. You can read more about this and see his video on this post at Task And Purpose.
Similarly, is RUOK? pointing to the hole which someone might be silently suffering in, rather than constructively building a way out? We could discuss this all day and not come to an unified response.
What do you think? Much like the 22 Push-Up Challenge, I believe that the RUOK? initiative is good, but it can’t stop there. There must be some action orientated activity following the question, often involving taking time to listen to another person.
Part of the reason I have been asking people to join me vicariously in the training for the marathon by adding “+10” to my daily post is that it gives a sense of the daily attention we need to bring to helping those who might need our support. It takes effort.
This current training and marathon is associated with raising awareness for the need to improve mental health among veterans. It is real, not just some social experiment.
I believe that the learnings from this will help in our understanding of what makes a difference in other areas too. I am doing this now because I care about the health of veterans, partly because I am a veteran myself. I also know that the benefits we realise from working out what works will help in this overarching pursuit that seeks to improve child survival.
Enough of the big ideas. I just want to finish by asking one question. Yes, I’m asking you. RUOK?