Hundreds of sailors learn how to ask ‘R U OK?’

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Ryan Zerbe (author), ABIS Thomas Sawtell (photographer), POIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): Garden Island, NSW

Topic(s): HMAS Canberra (L02), HMAS Adelaide (L01), Health, Fitness and Wellbeing

Commander Surface Force, Commodore Stephen Hughes, CSC, RAN, Commanding Officer HMAS Adelaide, Captain Jonathan Ley, RAN, and the 'R U OK?' team onboard HMAS Adelaide during the Mental Health Awareness Month event. (photo: ABIS Thomas Sawtell)
Commander Surface Force, Commodore Stephen Hughes, CSC, RAN, Commanding Officer HMAS Adelaide, Captain Jonathan Ley, RAN, and the 'R U OK?' team onboard HMAS Adelaide during the Mental Health Awareness Month event.

The largest warship in the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet has today marked Mental Health Awareness Month with an event to build confidence in asking ‘R U OK?’, prior to overseas deployment later this month.

The 400-strong ship’s company of HMAS Adelaide were joined by personnel from sister ship Canberra to learn how to spot the signs that it might be time to have an R U OK? conversation. Family and friends were invited to join the event to celebrate the crucial role they play in supporting their loved ones.

HMAS Adelaide’s Commanding Officer, Captain Jonathan Ley, said the ship’s upcoming overseas deployment was a good cue to reiterate the value of a strong social support network.

“When we’re deployed we rely on each other for emotional support and a big part of doing that well is knowing the signs that someone might need to talk,” Captain Ley said.

“We wouldn’t be able to deploy without the support of our loved ones, but it can be challenging for them too. It’s just as important that they’re able to ask each other ‘R U OK?’”

“HMAS Adelaide’s outstanding ship’s company are about to spend the remainder of the year at sea together. We’ll take the lessons from today and use them to share the load while we’re away from home.”

R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton welcomed the opportunity to speak with those gathered and reiterated the importance of meaningfully connecting with the people around you, for both those on home shores and those serving at sea.

“Serving personnel and their families know better than most the challenges that come with working away from home,” Ms Newton said. 

“One thing they can all do through those periods is to talk about it. Reaching out to have regular conversations can help someone work through those challenges, and feel more supported and resilient.”

“Signs can be subtle changes in verbal or non-verbal behaviour. A loved one might not be interacting with others in the way they usually would, or they may not be enjoying the things they often do like exercise or socialising. They may be demonstrating a lack of discipline or enthusiasm, or perhaps they seem distracted.

“We’re encouraging people to look out for those cues. We can also make a conscious effort when we know someone is going through a significant life change such as a relationship breakdown or becoming a parent.

“It's not always obvious that someone is struggling - and we sometimes need to be reminded to trust our gut instinct and dig a bit deeper. You don’t have to be an expert, just a good friend and a great listener.”

R U OK? inspires and empowers everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them and start a conversation with anyone who may be struggling with life. Conversation tips can be found at ruok.org.au.

For support at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20192459.