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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 99

Ms RYAN (LalorOpposition Whip) (12:12): I rise to acknowledge R U OK? Day, which is about us all taking a few moments out of our busy lives to start a genuine conversation, to ask the real questions and to stop and listen to the response from those we love, those we work with and those we stop to chat to in our busy lives. It's about checking on those we love or care for. It's about checking in with friends, work colleagues and neighbours. R U OK? Day is about reaching out and listening. I'd like to pay tribute today to beyondblue and the work that they have done in the area of mental health.

I read with interest recently a speech by the new chair, our former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, on the research that beyondblue had done into emergency services. I have sat in my electorate office with people who are former emergency workers, who have come to talk to me, and listened to their stories. Having listened to them, it was not a surprise to me to learn that the beyondblue research found that leadership and organisational culture have equal importance in someone's journey with mental health. The research found that, although issues may have begun with trauma, leadership and culture have equal importance in the outcomes of that journey and in how well or unwell people become.

Beyondblue provide us with statistics about mental health in this country. They tell us that one in two people will suffer from a mental health issue, that currently there are one million Australians battling depression and two million battling an anxiety condition, but only 50 per cent of those people will seek treatment. So R U OK? Day becomes critical as a reminder to all of us to take an opportunity to see if we can assist in increasing that number from 50 per cent, because ultimately we know that, if those people are untreated, unsupported and left alone to deal with their demons and battle with getting up every day and attending to things that they need to attend to, they may well become a statistic in our suicide numbers. For those people who are among the potentially three million today, dealing with depression or anxiety is an absolute battle for the individual.

I want to use today to thank those allied health professionals who work in this space for their absolute skill, dedication, patience and professionalism. I have seen firsthand, and I know many in the chamber will have seen firsthand, the assistance that they give people. There is nothing so uplifting as to have been close to someone who has sought appropriate help, had the assistance and come through on the other side of an anxiety disorder or depression.

In my years in schools, many of them spent working with adolescents, I got to work with some incredibly professional people in classrooms. It's not something we pay a lot of attention to day to day. Today is R U OK? Day, and I want to give a shout-out to all of those teachers who spend their days working with our young people and who are attentive enough to notice when something's gone awry, say, 'Are you okay?' and follow up to see young people get the assistance they need. In my journey as a teacher, there were young people for whom I saw that something had gone awry, and I was part of connecting with them and making sure that they got the support they needed. It's an incredible journey to go on with a young person even with the distance of being a teacher, let alone the distance of being a parent.

So to all those who are struggling today I say: if someone asks 'Are you okay?' please take the time to engage with them. I want to pay tribute to those parents out there who are dealing with this issue with a young person in their family. It's a very tough journey. Hang in there, keep a smile on your face, keep asking the question and engage whenever you can. Thank you.