Vol 12, Issue 9
Clare Van Balen
I hate RU OK Day. But in a rare display of uncharacteristic optimism, I’m calling on the community to join a good cause. I’m positing a plan to get behind this empty spectacle with all the cynicism and scorn it deserves.
So spread the word, get on board, let's start a conversation, and any other generic calls to meaningless action you can think of. We’re starting a movement.
Don’t worry, I’m not changing the name or the logo. We can keep the branded t-shirts, wristbands and other merchandise, not to mention the campaign bus that tours the country to harass people into talking about their feelings.
We want to keep the sponsors and brand ambassadors happy. You can get some great RU OK tees in vomit-yellow from General Pants – you know, one of the worst ranked clothing labels for their treatment of workers along their supply chain. Chemist Warehouse cares about mental health too, proudly displaying its logo on the RU OK website. I wonder if underpaying its staff to the order of $3.5 million back in 2016 affected those workers’ mental health?
What will change however is the poor bugger on the receiving end of your grotesque gesture. Instead of bothering homeless people with the uninvited gift of your presence, instead of harassing the quiet guy in your class with a coffee (he’s actually not quiet, he just doesn’t want to talk to you because he senses your shallow and annoying tendency to “help”) and instead of inflicting your anxious friend with the spectacle of your kindness, I implore you to spew your sympathy onto those who most need your pop-psychological scrutiny – the politicians responsible for the lack of services available to sufferers of mental illness and whose anti-social policies make being happy so goddam hard.
Here are some tips for noticing the signs of poor mental health among the political elite:
Has your local member been withdrawn, psychopathic and completely lacking in humanity?
Are they acting weird, for example using their office to structurally oppress the underclass, exacerbating mental illness by cutting frontline services for the neediest or resisting equal marriage rights?
Do they exhibit a neurotic obsession with protecting sovereign borders while asylum seeker children self-harm?
When experts tell them criminalising homelessness will cause widespread misery or sending debt letters to Centrelink recipients could lead to suicide attempts, does your MP seem to go into a state of psychosis or dissociation so that they are incapable of hearing good sense?
If so, it might be a cry for help and all they need is someone to get them a coffee and say: hey mate your behaviour is near clinically criminal, are you OK? Like seriously, what is wrong with you, are you OK?!
With this bubble-gum talking cure, we can raise awareness. Not about mental illness per se because we’re actually already really aware that that’s a thing. But about how the structural factors that impact on our wellbeing, especially the wellbeing of those experiencing an intersection of social problems for whom vague questions just don’t cut it.
You don’t have to be an expert or have any training whatsoever. You don’t need the slightest iota of self-awareness or humility. You don’t even have to think. All you need to do is act. Acting without thinking is basically our modus operandi. All you need are four letters: RU OK?
Clare Van Balen is a second-year JD student
More articles like this:
The rest of this Issue: