Today is R U OK Day. It’s a national campaign aimed at reducing the alarming rate of suicide in this country by encouraging people to seek help if they need it.
I’m stuck in bed today with the dreaded winter lurgy and a brutal cough that can clear a room, so I’ve had some time to scroll through some of the information about this day and listened to people share their stories (but I’m okay, just booooored).
One story I listened to made me cry this morning. One of the Breakfast Hosts on Triple J shared how he has struggled with public criticism since landing the hosting gig on a national station for young hipsters (and middle aged mums who dig the music and know all the words to Kendrick Lamar songs- after school drop off obviously).
You can check that out here if you want to hear what Ben and Liam were talking about. The Mum in me felt so sad for these young guys who are hitting a real milestone in their career, seriously, they’re TWENTY!
Basically, once they hit the top people set out to bring them down. The access faceless people have to ridicule and knock them down on social media has changed how people treat them. Even in public they have been treated badly, to the point of being terrified. As Ben/Liam (I’m sorry, I don’t know which one is which, eek) shared his thoughts about how this open criticism has become what it is, “There’s a disconnect… there’s no repercussions for people’s words.” And he’s right.
There’s a massive disconnect. We are all becoming so harsh, more critical, more demanding, but no one has built up resilience to any of this. In fact, I think we are more sensitive than ever.
I see teachers leaving their careers in droves, fed up by the criticism of others who know nothing about teaching. Teachers who are ridiculed without an opportunity to speak up out of fear of losing their job. I’m sure teachers have been talked about for as long as the profession has been around, but now they hear what people are saying. Now they can be accessed via email at 2am with complaints.
I know people who have left very successful careers in all different fields because they can’t deal with the criticism from others. The relentless nit-picking, criticism and blatant bullying. These people invest so much of themselves into their career, so when their skill or commitment is questioned or criticised, it cuts deep. If they didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt.
When did we become so horrible?
In an interview I listened to his morning between Em Rusciano and Pink, Pink shared how she still really noticed when she is criticised. She shared that despite all of her success, it still cuts deep when faceless people brutally attack her talent, her dedication, or even worse, her family and personal life- like the time people went nuts when she cooked green beans with her son in her arms. Check that interview out here.
The trifecta for my R U Ok day stuck in bed with a feral illness, was the Amy Winehouse documentary. Wow. What a day to watch that! She was so talented, such an incredible singer who didn’t want the life she had, and she had people who were asking her constantly if she was okay, but she got swept up in that life and it was devastating. At the end of the documentary, her bodyguard told about a discussion they had the night before Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning. She was watching clips of herself singing and said “I can really sing.” Then she said, “If I could give it all back, just to walk down the street with no hassle, I would.”
That woman with such incredible talent would have given it all up just to be left alone. Watching her being harassed by the paparazzi was so disturbing, I have no idea how that can be allowed. And while it couldn’t be blamed for her death, it definitely contributed to her feeling unsafe and unable to live her life.
Not feeling okay looks different on everyone. If it just looked like Amy Winehouse we could see it. It’s not obvious, and that’s the point of this day. It’s to check in and see if people need some support. It’s to see if they need a hand.
It’s NOT about telling people to turn their frown upside down, or to cheer up, or to look for positives. If you’ve ever hit rock bottom low, you’ll know that those things are far beyond reach. It’s about taking a little step towards admitting that there might be an issue and taking the first step towards getting some help.
I think the best message to come out of this day is to be kind. In Em Rusciano’s interview mentioned above, she said that she tells her children every day, “be kind and don’t take any s*#t.” What a great motto for life.
Now can someone just tell the trolls.
x I’m off to cough up another lung. x
If you’d like to check out tips for talking to someoneyou are worried about, or to see what the day is about, head to the RUOK website.