Menai students raise R U OK? awareness

Aquinas College Menai students (left to right) Lachlan Bowmer, Blake Diamond, Ayden Vangi, Lachlan Callaghan, Andrew Norrism and Daniel Ferraro fire-up for R U OK?

Aquinas Catholic College Menai’s school community held an R U OK? day event last Thursday in an effort to reach out to classmates and teachers who may need a little help.

Pastoral Care Coordinator Dominic Ritchie was behind the whole school initiative raising awareness for R U OK? and the school’s wellbeing movement. A breakfast BBQ was organised and students wore yellow wristbands all day.

Mr Ritchie was pleased by the response of the year 12 students who volunteered to cook a BBQ breakfast, which included bacon and egg rolls, muffins, juices, yogurt and fruit for more than 60 of their teachers.

Groundsman Phil Knight, who has coordinated the breakfast and decorations for the last few years, said: “we can’t just take each other for granted – we need to look out for each other. Days, like today, help us to do this.”

Mr Ritchie said that R U OK? Is a simple question asked “an inestimable amount of times” at the school and it was a natural progression to organise a BBQ with a message so closely aligned to the school’s individual and collective wellbeing practices.

“One of the greatest features of our staff is the camaraderie. But this affinity doesn’t just occur. It is built through trust and commitment to each other and the students. Today is testament to this care of one another.”

Mr Ritchie said that from the when the barbeques were fired up at 6.30am the cordiality to support each other was “tangible”.

The event followed on from a number of wellbeing initiatives held at the school in Term 2 including talks from guest speakers from mental health organisations, as well as the school’s Fitness and Fuel program, which kicks off again in Term 4.

R U OK Day, held on the second Thursday each September, serves as an annual reminder to regularly check in with friends, family and colleagues.

Gavin Larkin, who founded the organisation R U OK? in memory of his father who committed suicide in 1995, believed this simple question might protect other people from the pain his family endured.

The foundation encourages people to check up on each other through four simple steps:

1: Ask R U OK?
2: Listen. Take what they say seriously. Don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Don’t judge their experiences or reactions.
3: Encourage action. Do encourage them to explain how they are feeling. Ask what they have done in the past to manage a similar situation, and how you can support them. If they have been feeling down for more than two weeks, encourage them to see a health professional.
4: Check in. Put a reminder in your diary to call or meet up with them soon. Stay in touch, let them know you’ve been thinking about them, and ask if they’ve found a way to manage the situation.

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