Don’t forget the bromance when asking R U OK?

Amid the cloud of coronavirus, asking “R U OK?” has never been more important. And men in particular are being urged to make time for “meaningful catch-ups”.

The playful social media feud between Hollywood heavyweights Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds has made headlines since the actors met on the set of Wolverine in 2009.

But behind the jokes, the “fine bromance” is an important lesson in male friendship, says graduate psychologist Simon Tyler – and one with particular significance in the shadow of coronavirus.

“The disparity between male and female suicides is significant – globally a man suicides every minute, a pretty confronting statistic,” says Simon, who is completing a PhD in men’s health at University of South Australia.

“I get really frustrated with the term ‘toxic masculinity’, but there’s a pressure on men not to be vulnerable. Men need to spend time with each other and they need to talk.”

Suicide figures worse for men

According to the most recent ABS data, 3046 people died by suicide in 2018; more than eight deaths every day. Three times more men than women took their own lives.

With concerns about the potential mental health effects of COVID-19, R U OK? Day 2020 is urging people to learn what to say if someone says they’re not OK.

The public awareness campaign, which aims to reduce the number of suicides in Australia by empowering people to connect with those around them, says time is one the most valuable gifts we can offer.

“Our latest evaluation measures show while most people know how to have a conversation with someone who might be struggling with life, 31 per cent lack confidence or are unsure how to continue that conversation,” R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton says.

“We want to help them learn what to say after R U OK? because that’s a conversation that could change someone’s life.”

How to open up communication lines

The charity’s downloadable guide to supporting R U OK? Day has tips, ideas and resources designed to navigate a tricky dialogue with a friend or loved one.

“Men do communicate differently and they may not be as forthcoming with each other as women, but it’s still all about reaching out,” Katherine says.

Simon says the biggest thing men can do for each other is listen, have open-ended and meaningful conversations, and not pass judgment.

“I’m an ex-footballer and ex-construction worker so I understand how hard being vulnerable can be!” he says.

“But it’s shown if we have really good friendships – and those male friendships are important for men – we have better health outcomes, mentally and physically.

“Men need to schedule in time with their mates, whether it’s going for a walk or a bike ride or just driving to Bunnings together!”

Learn more about R U OK? Day. If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 131 114.

Written by Liz McGrath.