Marching Mardi Gras for Mental Health
“Hey babe, R U OK?”. As an Ambassador for suicide prevention charity R U OK? I’ve been on both sides of this question more times than you can imagine. It may seem like a small question yet it’s one so many of us struggle to ask and answer, partly because we don’t always know how. For those experiencing depression though, it’s proof that people care. For friends and family supporting them, it helps to create a connection. No matter how you look at it, this simple question can be a much-needed light in the darkness.
It’s a heartbreaking fact that the LGBT+ community is more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, social isolation and thoughts of suicide. We can all be the light that helps though. Many of us don’t know that starting a life changing conversation can be as simple asking the small but powerful question “R U OK?”. Whilst it’s not always an easy conversation to have, R U OK’s 4 simple steps can guide you through it and Ask, Listen, Encourage Action and Check In to relight a spark, just by being a friend.
I signed on as an R U OK Day Ambassador because I’ve lived on the roller coaster of depression for most of my life. I wanted to use my own experiences to shine a light on the issue, break down stigma, spread the word of how we can all help and just maybe, create some positive change. I do what I do because I want to see fiercer queens, healthier bears, livelier lesbians, more confident queers and a more connected and informed community, and I’m sparkling with excitement for Mardi Gras this year.
It’s R U OK’s second time in the parade but I’ve been marching my way through Mardi Gras in everything from drag to a leather jockstrap since the 90’s. This year will be my 8th time in the parade, this year feels different though. R U OK has been nominated as Community Initiative / Charity of the Year in the Australian LGBTI Awards and Casey Donovan, Steven Oliver and 80 other people who genuinely care are marching with us as we celebrate 40 years of Mardi Gras and our diverse, strong and ever evolving LGBT+ community. I’m quietly confident that 2018 will be my best Mardi Gras yet!
R U OK Day may only be one day a year, but every day is a great day to have a conversation that could change a life.
If one of your mates doesn’t seem like themselves and you’re not sure what to do, check out our 4 Steps to Starting a Conversation at https://www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask
If you’re experiencing feelings of depression or isolation or thoughts of suicide, there are plenty of support services that understand and can help. Be sure to get in touch with Qlife, Beyond Blue’s Wingman Project, Lifeline or The Suicide Callback Service.