Live Better

Health of the nation – Janina Nearn

We explore the health of the nation from six leaders from six health organisations.

The R U OK? Foundation was co-founded by Janina Nearn and Gavin Larkin to raise awareness of how a conversation can change a life. Encouraging people to connect with those around them and support anyone struggling with life, the foundation champions the message, R U OK?, and urges people to regularly and meaningfully ask it to those around them. In 2009 the first R U OK? Day was held, a national day of action dedicated to reminding people to regularly check in with their family and friends.

Describe your role

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of the R U OK? Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life.

What do you believe are the biggest health challenges in Australia?

I think mental health is a huge challenge in Australia. Research shows that almost one in five adults (20%) will experience a mental illness in a 12-month period and 14% of children and adolescents suffer mental health problems.

What do you believe are the biggest health opportunities in Australia?

Raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to mental health problems.

Introducing early intervention programs and ensuring adequate services to deal with treatment for the problems.

Investing in the wellbeing of young people as they are our future.

What is the R U OK? Foundation doing to improve the health of Australia?

The R U OK? Foundation aspires to strengthen informal community care in Australia by building the capacity of family members, friends, colleagues, teammates, students and community leaders to have regular, meaningful conversations.

By building this capacity and enhancing a sense of belonging across the community, we aim to inspire all people to proactively connect with one another. We believe that all people can make a difference and have the power to change a life by asking the question ‘are you ok?’ with positive intent.

Based on your role, knowledge and experience what advice do you have for Australians to improve their health?

Look out for each other and stay connected by having regular and meaningful conversations.  You don’t need to be an expert to help someone who may be struggling with life. Be ready to ask ‘are you ok’, listen without judgement, encourage action and make sure you follow up.

If you were Prime Minister for a day what would be the top three things you would do to improve the health of Australia?

Invest more in suicide prevention awareness and education. If more people in the community can identify the signs that someone is suicidal, and have the appropriate skills to respond, more lives might be saved.

Invest more in awareness and education programs to eliminate substance and alcohol abuse and recreational drug use. These are a major contributing factor to mental health issues.

Incorporate national standards in OH&S legislation to address mental health in the workplace.

What was the most recent global conference/industry event you attended and strongest message you took away?

It was the Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) awards lunch. The strongest message I took away from it was that organisations that champion wellbeing in their workplaces are happier, healthier and more productive.

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