Later this week is the mental health awareness day called RUOK Day. That doesn't have anything to do with ROUS Day which is the day in which we're made aware of Rodents Of Unusual Size, nor does it have anything to do with RUFC Day which is the day in which we're made aware of Rotherham United Football Club. RUOK Day is the day which people are encouraged to ask other people the question "Are You Okay?" in the name of suicide prevention.
The day sounds reasonable enough in principle because suicide prevention and mental health issues are serious matters but as someone who knows several people with mental health issues, I can't help but feel that any useful point that the day might have had has long been completely obliterated.
To be fair, I'd rather be made more aware of rodents of unusual size like capybaras because they're so very very cute, and be made more aware of Rotherham United Football Club because they would steal column inches away from rugby league. Anything that makes the public more aware of lower league English football can only be a good thing.
However, speaking as a curmudgeon who isn't particularly persuaded by fake made up awareness days, I really really don't want the to be aware of the utter tokensim of RUOK Day which transform mental health from a serious issue to one of faux touchy feely awareness which is shrouding an underlying commercialism.
Let's assume for a second that you're all happy and healthy and everything is going along pretty nicely for you. On RUOK Day, you don't want to be seen as an ignorant person and so you go around the place, such as your work, school or what not, ask the question "Are You Okay?" and then you can go on with your pretty nice life, having ticked the box of societal expectations and going back to ignoring the issue for the rest of the year. This is especially useful for psychopaths and workplace bullies because having ticked the box of societal expectations, they can carry on with their merry course of being horrible to people.
The opposite is also interesting. If everything is not going along nicely at all, then you don't want to be seen as a worry wart or a downer, and besides which, for the rest of the year nobody wants to broach the subject anyway. Your answer to the question "Are You Okay?" will be "yes" because nobody really wants to deal with the ramifications of you answering "no"; even if it is completely true. If everything is not okay, then mysteriously that person becomes the subject of counseling and a problem to be fixed, rather than actually addressing an underlying problem that you might have a few rogue psychopaths running about the place.
There are two broad camps on RUOK Day: those that don't care but want to be seen to be doing the right thing; and those who would prefer to be left alone because they live with the unpleasantness of mental health issues on a daily basis.
As for me personally, I have possibly the best of all worlds in that because I work for an exceptionally small firm, I will never be asked the question and secondary to that, the vast majority of people who I come in contact with, wouldn't ask me the question in the first place because it would never occur to them. I could be simultaneously fine and falling to pieces and nobody would ever even find out. If I was suffering from some kind of mental health problem, then thankfully, I could deal with that privately and not have it dragged out in front of a large organisation, as the exhibit in a freak show.
If you are genuinely concerned about someone, then do something about it under the cover of monotony. Wait for everyone to forget about RUOK Day and go for nice coffee and cake with them in a quiet place; without the fanfare of an exploitable made up awareness day. If you do truly want to care for someone, then put the effort in and care for them. Of course, if you do happen to be a psychopath then this is probably lost on you anyway, so by all means use RUOK Day as a signal to the world that you ironically have something wrong with you and that people should be fearful of you.
RUOK Day seems to me to be the embodiment of slacktivism, where people who ordinarily don't give a tinker's fart are given a reprieve and have their apathy reset to zero for free. There are 364 other days in the year and if you genuinely want to care about the mental well-being of someone, it's those days when nobody else cares which are more important. It should be an ongoing process rather than an event.