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Kate Schwager


Coffee lovers across the region were surprised with a free cup of their favourite drink this morning.

For the third year in a row, local organisation HealthWISE shouted the morning rush in 23 cafés across the New England North West and southern Queensland to give locals a break and a reminder to look after one another, as part of RUOK Day. This included Narrabri’s Coogle Café, Boggabri’s Bluebird Café, Pilliga Café and We Waa’s Marinda Nursery.

RUOK Day is a national initiative that encourages Australians to check on friends and family by starting a conversation on mental health.
HealthWISE mental health clinician Anne Edwards said that simply asking “Are you ok?” and really listening to the answer can make a big impact on someone who is struggling.
“It can make a huge difference because when people aren’t feeling well, or they’re feeling suicidal, it can be really difficult to actually reach out to other people,” she said.
“The stresses of the last few years means most people at one stage or another have been feeling really vulnerable and not feeling ok.”
Coogle Café owner Matt Fife was proud to take part in the initiative for the third year in a row, and said that he was “happy to be involved in promoting mental health awareness in the community”.

RUOK recommends checking in with yourself before asking others how they are, to ensure you are in the right headspace for a conversation on mental health, are prepared for a negative answer and have picked an appropriate time to ask.

The organisation suggests four key steps: ask the person if they’re ok, listen with an open mind, encourage action by urging them to commit to something that might help their situation and check in with the person afterwards.

“Asking ‘Are you ok?’ – it doesn’t turn you into a doctor or anything like that,” Anne said.
“It’s about listening to the answer and then encouraging that person to seek appropriate help, be it their GP or looking for a referral to an organisation like HealthWISE for psychological support.”

HealthWISE offers a range of services across the region, including mental health clinicians, lived experience, Aboriginal outreach, drought and bushfire relief. The organisation also runs regular Touchpoints suicide prevention workshops, which are designed to help everyday people learn how to recognise warning signs and support people affected by or at risk of suicide.

To learn more about the services HealthWISE offers in your area, visit healthwise.org.au. To learn more about how to have a conversation about mental health, visit ruok.org.au.

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support. Always call 000 if a life is in danger.

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