To all the Almanackers: RU OK?

G’day mate, how’re you going?

Hey, how have you been?

How’s things mate?

Are you OK?

The answer to most of these questions, openly and verbally, when asked of a male, is usually “Fine” or a variation on the positive.

Good. Great. No worries. Couldn’t be better. Good to be alive. Sweet as.

Whether that’s a lie or the truth, an economical way of answering in a short way what can’t be described in a longer way or getting the pleasantries out of the way, depends on the person.

But as much as males have an instant, almost Pavlovian response to the questions above in the positive, it isn’t always the case.

Yesterday was RU OK? day, an initiative set up to encourage all people, but with a particular focus on males, to check in on their mates to see how they are travelling and encourage those who were asked the question to really share. It is aimed in part at getting men to be better about both inquiring but also about sharing what may be troubling them.

It is a two stage thing, both difficult. First, telling men it is OK to ask personal questions of their mates who might be struggling. Second, that it is OK to share with a mate that you aren’t as good as you’d like to be.

My colleague and fellow Almanaker Gareth Andrews has a great line where he says women talk face to face, whereas men walk side by side. The thought is that men share but not deeply, and that there are often preconceived barriers or emotional hurdles to men feeling OK about baring their soul or at least seeking help. Women are better are sharing and solving, not avoiding issues by looking each other in the eye.

The funny thing about sporting clubs is that everyone is always OK. Everyone’s always up and about, putting their hand up, prepared to make sacrifices for their team, and the like. You need to be switched on and leave aside the issues you might be having once you enter the field of battle. No distractions, all for team, one for all, and other great lines.

The brilliant Matt Zurbo has been around enough country footy club rooms and talked to enough ex-players to know that this can hide reality.

Despite the bravery of Schwass, Thompson, Clark and others in different sports, we are still occasionally confused by people who seem to have it all at their feet (money, status, playing on the MCG!) and still get sad about it.

The Almanac, as a community, is still one that tends towards the male demographic. Notwithstanding the wonderful art and words of Kate, the positive attitude of Yvette, the beautiful reflections of Matilda her cygnet and our own Collingwood princess Danielle, the vast majority of writings and readings are from blokes. And I’d hazard a guess that the majority are again in that interesting male demographic of 25-50.

This is the target audience for things like RU OK? day. Like recent successful campaigns to draw attention to certain issues, they seek to take men away from their comfort zone or do something different to highlight an issue. Be it wearing nail polish or growing a mo, this campaign asks men to do something even more uncomfortable than having an itchy face, it asks them to talk!

The sharing we see on these pages is brilliant. I have read wonderful stories here about fathers, lost mates, tragedies and the way sporting clubs react to them, illness and depression. Just today, I’ve read a great piece about footy finals that has a little side bar about lost friendships and growing older, which was beautiful.

I called a couple of mates yesterday to see how they were. One I know isn’t great, but in a small way, I hope that him knowing he has mates that care for him will help him on a journey only he can take himself. The other is a guy who is unfailingly positive, I haven’t seen him cross in my 25 years of friendship, but he’s only human and of course things can occasionally go skewiff.

I hope they are OK. In my positive nature, I hope everyone is OK. But I am not naive enough to think everyone is, nor that a simple day of checking in will cure everything.

The recent Big Issue, with David Wilson’s great piece about a regular bloke’s dinner and sharing issues over parmas and pots, has a stat on the back page that we lose 7 people to suicide each day in this country. And whilst sadly the stats for young women are increasing as the stats for young men decrease, the majority of suicide victims still tend to be males.

Would checking in have helped? Who knows, somethings won’t be solved by simply chatting.

So, as we head into the weekend of finals, with all the great backslapping and bonhomie that goes with it, the banter and bickering, the gentle digs and the side bets, the wonderful catching up and bonding that we’ll all do, make a note to later on, check in on how your mates are feeling. Really feeling.

It’s hard to do it at the game or at the pub, as you watch Boomer or Selwood crash in, and you’ll get strange sideways looks and possibly a bit more space between you on a crowded seat if you mistime it.

But, keep it in the back pocket. You don’t have to wait for next RU OK? day to check on a mate.

So to all the Almanackers: RU OK?


About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good on you , Sean it is a vital topic as some 1 who only has 1 male member of our wedding party left it is v rare for a day to go past where I don’t think what else I could have done ( other male mates also ) each a different yet v similar story . Are u ok day is a great initiative and another reminder to blokes to actually talk about life’s problems not who is injured re footy etc ,thanks , Sean just so important

  2. I’m genuinely O.K cocko, it’s been a tough week, but getting there. R.U ok Sean?

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    We had a mens health night up here two weeks ago. Very well attended with around 150 showing up. A genuine excuse to get out of the house for a few beers on a Monday night would have helped in that regard.

    There was a sleep doctor, an ex-cop depression sufferer from Beyondblue, a physical fitness trainer and David Parkin talking about prostate cancer.
    Lots of Q&A.

    Not sure who organised it or how, but well worth doing.

  4. Yvette Wroby says

    Hi Sean,
    thank you for this article. It’s a wonderful initiative and a good thing to bring into this forum. Thanks too for the nod too. Be well


  5. Top stuff Sean. Beautifully put. One of the great things about the Almanac site is the comments banter, and the connection and camaraderie it fosters. I feel like I have a lot of friends that I have never met.
    Loneliness and social isolation is a huge issue for a lot of older blokes. I often suggest on-line communities like ours for people with physical problems that limit their capacity to get out.
    Depression is anger turned inward, and it is easy to feel sorry for yourself and hit the bottle or worse. Finding the Almanac as an outlet certainly turned on a lot of light bulbs for me.
    Thanks Sean and Knackers. I’m doing OK (one day at a time).

  6. Steve

    Like the U2 song says, some days are better than others…


  7. Fantastic Sean. Too often mental health problems aren’t considerd ‘real’ health problems. Yet looking at the burden of disease figures about the impact mental health problems have on peoples morbidity might shock many people into realiising how debilitating, and dangerous mental illness is when it’s not treated. Important events like RU OK day require our support, and The Almanac provides a marvellous forum to have this sort of talk, and i for one, as a health worker, am particularly enthused and proud of this conversation.


  8. If Travis Varcoe is in tune with the universe tonight I’ll be OK.

    Thanks Sean.

  9. The People's Elbow says

    The differences between men and women in discussing those things of importance are sadly also reflected in popular culture.

    Look at a television show about women, it’s about the meaningfulness of friendship—Sex and the City, Girls, Broad City, etc. For men, it’s just the opposite. Male friendship on any given sitcom is a retreat into thoughtlessness—Two and a Half Men, anyone?.

  10. Good point Litza. I was just thinking about my favourite TV shows like Good Wife and Sopranos. The female lead characters manage responsibilities and friendships outside of their work role. The male characters have no friends or relationships outside of work.

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Mr Elbow, you’ve chosen to ignore the pioneering male health inroads made by the Footy Show.

  12. Thanks for asking Sean. Life throws us many challenges. Sometimes we don’t want to admit things are hard. On the other side we sometimes don’t want to hear that others are doing it tough because we don’t know what to do or how to help.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    Well done Sean. Important question. Needs to be asked more often. Great comments. Thanks.

  14. Harmsy – Travis Varcoe?? Are you still leaving the light on for Harold Holt?

  15. Well played, Sean.
    Read Kasey Chambers piece in the paper just now. The singer.
    Recently divorced. Three young kids.
    She says: “You go through times when you feel lost, but I don’t think that is a bad thing any more. I used to want to be Supermum and Superwife, but if you spend your life trying to do that, you will always be disappointing yourself.
    “Now I go ‘Okay, I’m having a sh*t day and it’s okay if I put the kids to bed and have a little cry in the corner.’ That doesn’t make me the worst mum in the world.”

    Play on.

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