Dec 10, 2020

R U OK? launches mental health initiative aimed at the over 65s

Mental health initiatives are usually aimed at younger people. Whether they be targeted to the pressures of high school or university, workplace stress, or the toll that being a new parent can take on a relationship, you don’t often see older people represented in the conversation around mental health. 

But a new initiative started by R U OK? is aiming to change that. The ‘Your Natter Matters’ campaign, which launched earlier this week, focuses on the mental health and well being of people over 65, aiming to highlight the difference that having a chat about mental health can do for someone. 

“R U OK? want to empower our Seniors to reach out to one another and give the gift of conversation,” said R U OK? Campaign Director, Gennie Sheer. 

“A meaningful ‘natter’ can positively impact feelings of self-worth and self-esteem and make a big difference to someone who might be struggling with life.”  

Across Australia, it’s believed that between 10 and 15 percent of people over 65 are living with depression. That number more than doubles in people living in aged care facilities, with between 30 to 50 percent experiencing feelings of depression. And while people who engage with the R U OK? campaign are up to six times more likely to reach out to someone who might be experiencing mental health issues, older people have been shown to be less likely to engage with the message. 

The development of the ‘Your Natter Matters’ campaign came out of this realisation that R U OK? was missing this key demographic. As people age, many begin dealing with mental health challenges for the first time in their lives. Isolation, grief, changing circumstances and concern about their independence can all increase risk factors. 

While there are some resources available that focus on the mental health of older people, it is an overwhelmingly missed demographic in wider conversations around mental health. 

This new campaign puts the focus onto this community who are struggling with mental health in a way that tailors the R U OK? Message to be safe, relevant, memorable and practical, and which empowers older people to use their valuable experience to support each other through life’s ups and downs.  

“During the development of the campaign people shared with us how the support of friends helped them through some difficult times,” said Ms Sheer. 

“Having someone recognise they were doing it tough and, rather than turn away, check in on them and be there to listen was something that made a big difference.” 

It’s important to look out for the subtle signs that someone may be in need of a ‘natter’, particularly when going through a major life change. There might be changes in verbal or non-verbal behaviour. Someone might tell you they’re having difficulty filling their days or they might be withdrawing from social situations. 

“If we know someone is going through a significant life change, that’s when we should make a conscious effort to connect,” said Ms Sheer.  

“The campaign recognises the breadth of life experience older adults can draw on to support those around them who might be struggling,” said Kirrily Lord – General Manager, Retirement Living Operations. 

“Seniors might be reluctant to reach out so it’s important their peers know when and how to start a conversation that could change a life.” 

The ‘Your Natter Matters’ campaign has put together a series of resources to help older people tap into the power of conversation. Printed and digital resources, developed with the support and guidance of seniors, advocates, researchers and those working with older Australians, can be accessed to help facilitate your own life saving natter with the older people in your life. 

For more information, and to learn how to ask ‘R U OK?’, head to ruok.org.au/yournattermatters

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