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Tracksafe: The secret to work-mateship in the rail industry

  • By Robyn Ward
  • 21 Apr, 2016

21 April 2015 marks the second Rail R U OK?Day.

Secret to workmateship
This collaboration with TrackSAFE and its partners organisations enables us to do something truly remarkable.
 
It allows us to communicate directly to 110 thousand people across Australia and charge them with the responsibility of doing something that seems unremarkable but is possibly transformational.
 
It allows us to encourage rail workmates to start a conversation.
 
I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to work in the rail industry and be faced with the prospect of fatalities, trauma or accidents.
 
And when you add to that the rollercoaster that is life, I can only imagine that it can be pretty daunting.
 
But hearing the stories from your colleagues in the rail sector, I remain even more convinced that conversations do matter.
 
I remain even more convinced that regular, meaningful conversations can change our world.
 
Take this anecdote from former Queensland Rail worker Justin Geange, talking about his workmate Tom, as one example of proof:
 
“It was hard getting out of bed… I was putting on the mask… but it’s exhausting living a lie. But then there was this one particular day where Tom was really engaged and he really genuinely asked 'Are you ok mate? I can see you are doing it tough.' And it was that day, it was that straw that broke the camel’s back and I said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I am going to be fair dinkum. I’m struggling.’ That was the first step for me.”
 
One of the questions that we’re frequently asked is: What do I do if they say “no”?
 
How do I act?
 
What do I say?
 
Our advice: Be you. Be the concerned workmate.
 
Don’t judge them; and re-assure yourself that you don’t need to fix it, or play the expert.
 
As Transit Officer Sue Jervis told us, workmates need to rely on each other.
 
And she had this to say about the importance of openness and respect in conversations:
 
“Because we work closely together, you know how the other person normally is, and can pick up when they’re acting differently. You can tell when your partner’s had a bad day. Sometimes it’s alright to leave them for a few minutes. But if it’s going to affect them for the rest of the day, you need to know. We rely on each other so much, especially when there’s an incident or stressful situation. You need to be able to ask each other ‘Are you ok?’ and let each other know if you’re not in the right headspace to deal with those incidents. Checking in can keep you both safe.”
 
This year, we made a real effort to find inspiring stories and testimonials of work-mateship.
 
It’s our hope that when you, your colleagues and your bosses appreciate that people just like you are already starting these conversations, it will make it easier for the reticent, the reluctant and the reclusive to reach out and start a conversation.
 
The stakes are high.
 
We know that the suicide rate is climbing in Australia.
 
It’s heart-breaking and something needs to change.
 
But today, on this second Rail R U OK?Day, I urge you not to look to governments, doctors and experts for answers.
 
I ask you to look to yourself and ask what can you do differently to give hope, and a sense of support and comfort, to a workmate having a rough day or a tough time.
 
The gift of time is a pretty wonderful gift; particularly when it’s accompanied by a listening ear; a determination not to judge; and a willingness to help someone explore what they can do differently to manage the load.
 
Today - and any day someone’s struggling - start a conversation that could change a life.
 
Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis, speaking at Sydney’s Central Rail Station.
 
To support Rail R U OK?Day, visit: http://tracksafefoundation.com.au/rail-ruok-day/

R U OK?

By hello 26 May, 2017
Next Tuesday 30 May, senior business leaders will be speaking on the importance of mental health, wellbeing and resilience in the workplace at the icare NSW and R U OK? Senior Leader's Breakfast. The event is SOLD OUT but you can still get involved through the Facebook live stream at facebook.com /icarensw from 7.30am. We've got a teaser of what will be discussed below:
By hello 25 May, 2017

27-year-old Khan Porter is a world-class athlete and one of Australia’s leading CrossFit champs, having competed three times at The CrossFit Games.


Known for kicking physical goals, Khan is putting his muscle behind a cause that’s close to his heart – suicide prevention. This weekend will see him compete in the highly competitive Reebok CrossFit Games 2017 Pacific Regional, wearing a bright yellow shirt in support of R U OK?


This won’t be the first time he’s spoken up about mental health and suicide prevention. In 2016, Khan posted a 25 second video of himself busting some serious moves to Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies,’ in between his CrossFit lifts. The video went viral and Khan used the platform to start a conversation on how concepts of masculinity can stop men from seeking help when they need it most.

By hello 19 May, 2017

With the best of intentions we sometimes put our foot in it when it comes to supporting a mate or loved when who might be going through a tough time. Understanding depression and anxiety or any mental health issue can be bewildering for both the person unwell and their support network.

Sometimes we don’t always say the right thing to let the person know we are there for them. But words have power and thinking twice before offering advice, an opinion or a judgment to someone who is already feeling vulnerable, is key.

We’ve put together a few common scenarios people with depression/anxiety sometimes hear and offer an alternative response. These responses are more supportive and likely to encourage your loved one or friend to open up to you. Being able to open up without feeling judged, gives relief and establishes trust — and that’s the best gift you can give someone who’s struggling.

Here are some things you shouldn’t say to someone who has depression:

1. “I read that exercising every day is the best way to beat depression/anxiety, you should join the gym and start walking 5km a day. Endorphins, you need endorphins!”

While it’s true that exercising does help lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, some people, when they’re in a really low place, can barely cope with getting out of bed to shower. The gap between where they’re at to this new world of up and at ‘em, can seem impossible to reach.

Instead say:   “I know when I have been feeling a bit off, getting out each morning for a walk really helped me get back to a better headspace. If you ever want a walking buddy or want to try Tai Chi or something like that, I would love to join you.”

2. “You have a great life, a great family, a beautiful home, what do you have to be depressed about?”

Depression/anxiety is not a choice and this is not a supportive comment, it will only alienate the person further. Your friend/loved one is probably very aware they have a “good life.” This comment will probably just shut down the possibility of them feeling comfortable opening up about their troubles with you.

Instead say:   “I can see you’re doing it tough at the moment. Do you feel like opening up about what’s happening, I have time to talk? If not now, you can call me anytime, I’m always here for you, please know that.”

3. “You just need to get out of the house, you’re cooped up here on your own and that can’t be good for you, no wonder you’re depressed!”

People who are struggling with depression or anxiety just can’t leave the house, sometimes. Facing the world when they are at their worst is just not an option for them. It just isn’t.

Instead try:   “If you feel like going for a walk, even just around the block, I would love that. Have a think about it. If not today, how about tomorrow? I really need to walk too, you’d actually be helping me get more active.”

4. “You need to snap out of this, it’s not fair on the rest of your family/friends, you’re being selfish.”

Red flag to a probably exhausted bull. This is not helpful, it can feel judgmental and alienating. This is not a choice, it’s something that feels completely out of their control. Guilt and shame compound their problem.

Instead try:   Is there anything I can do to make this time a little easier for you? Can I drive you to see your doctor or phone and make an appointment for you? How can I best support you?

5. “I was depressed for a few days once, I get it, but I just made myself get over it. You should just try and be happy.”

Being out of sorts for a few days does not equate to depression and comparing your situation to someone else’s isn’t supportive.

Instead say:   “I went through a few rough days myself a couple of years ago, but I managed to get myself back on track. I know this is probably different, but I’d be happy to share what got me through it, if you think it might help.”

6. “I’m throwing a dinner party to cheer you up, it’ll just be a few close friends and family.”

Eek! With the best of intentions, you have probably seen the wide-eyed look of horror on your friend’s face in response to that well-meaning offer. Depression and anxiety are no friend to socialising. Even if the guests are people they know well. The pressure to chat and appear happy when you’re not is exhausting .

Instead say:   “I would love to have you around for lunch or a cuppa one day next week, just you and me, is that something you feel like you might be able to handle at the moment?”

7. “You’re depressed because you have nothing meaningful to do in your life. You need to socialise more or join a club, just get out and about more, you need to make an effort.”

While social connectedness and feeling a part of things is definitely key to a healthier lifestyle and a sense of well-being, not everyone with depression or anxiety is capable of taking such a big step. It can be scary enough for some people when they’re feeling great, but a terrifying prospect when that person is not at their best.

Instead try:  I was thinking about joining, (e.g.) ‘Ladies who Luncheon,’ it looks like a lot of fun and it’s only once a fortnight. I’d feel a lot better if I had someone to go with, would you consider coming with me next week if you’re feeling up to it?”

8. “I’m trying to be supportive and I know you can’t help having depression/anxiety, but you’ve been taking medication for a while now, so how come it’s not working? How long before you’ll be better?”

How long is a piece of string? The odds are your friend or loved one has been wondering the same thing. Getting better or just managing a condition, even on medication, is different for everyone. There’s no quick fix and making the person feel like they’re not getting better fast enough, will possibly make them withdraw further.

Instead say:   “Have you had a chat to your doctor lately about your progress, how are you feeling about it all? I’m happy to listen if you want to get anything off your chest. This must be very frustrating for you and sometimes a good vent helps. I’ll make us a cuppa.”

9. “This mood you’re in is a choice you know? You need to pull yourself up by the boot straps and get on with things. People depend on you, you know.”

Oh, thank you for being so frank, said no one ever. A comment like this will only further compound the isolation this person is already feeling. It will It certainly not open up any opportunity for meaningful connection or conversation, which could actually be the starting point to them getting help.

Try instead:  “I really can’t relate to how you’re feeling, mate.  I haven’t had depression so it’s hard for me to understand what you’re going through right now. I wish I could understand it a bit better, so if you want to talk to me about it, I’ll make us a cuppa and sit with you for a while.”

Need more tips to help you talk to someone you're worried about? Visit our How to Ask page.


By hello 19 May, 2017

Rail R U OK?Day   encourages rail workers to deepen their conversations with their colleagues. Because checking in with our rail workmates can help them better manage the pressures they face both on and off the job.

Wes Gordon is a pastoral carer who’s worked in the rail industry for over forty years. He understands the pressures and stresses rail workers face.

“Rail staff are involved in a whole range of stressful incidents – fatalities, injuries, passengers collapsing – but they’re well trained, focussed and handle it extremely well. On top of that they have the problems that everybody has - family problems, family illnesses, anxiety issues, depression. We have all of that and we deal with it. But these things can take their toll,” he says.

Wes believes that chatting through stuff with colleagues can help a workmate through life’s ups and downs.

“That’s why programs like R U OK? which encourage our people to ask each other, ‘Hey, are you going ok?’ are really important.

“I’ve found that phrase is one of the most powerful phrases around. It saves lives – I’ve actually seen it save people’s lives,” he says.

Throughout his time in the rail industry Wes has witnessed a number of life-changing conversations but he says there’s one moment that stands out.

“There was an incident at one of the stations, a near miss and a very traumatic incident. I sat and talked to a staff member who was very shaken. While I’m sitting and talking to him the phone in the station kept going off. He was answering the phone and each time he answered you could see him settling down more and more. What was happening was people in the system had heard about the incident and were ringing him up, going ‘How you going?’ Are you ok?’. You could actually see it working.

“I think there were about seven or eight phone calls and by the time the final phone call came through he had settled right down and he was in control. It’s a fantastic example of what that question, ‘Are you ok?’ can do.”

Wes believes we’ve all got what it takes to start a conversation with a workmate we’re worried about.

“You don’t need to be an expert to ask that question, ‘Are you ok?’ You just need to be a human being, a person who has an interest in their fellow person.

“Start by asking the question then listen. It’s very important to listen - people pick up when you’re not listening. Then help them tap in to the support that’s out there, and there’s a lot out there in the rail industry. You could suggest they go and talk to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Or you could say, ‘Let’s go and talk to your supervisor, or your friends, or your family, or your doctor.’ The next steps you suggest don’t have to be complicated.”

Wes believes that it’s important to not just have a one-off conversation with someone you’re worried but to keep checking in with them.

“Over the years, I’ve seen some really bad stuff with people badly affected and I’ve seen, the only word I can use is, miraculous recoveries, with people coming back - that’s because they’ve had all this ongoing support. So, don’t go and ask someone if they’re ok and then just walk away. That doesn’t work. Check in with them again,” he urges.

Finally, Wes reminds us that these types of conversations aren’t just for the workplace.

“We all rely on each other. We are not an island. So, it’s important when you see one of your friends, one of your workmates, one of your neighbours having problems to go up and ask them if they’re ok. It makes a big difference. It lifts people’s spirit.”

Find more tips and advice for starting a conversation with a colleague you’re worried about at   ruok.org.au

Do you work in the Rail industry? Get involved in   Rail R U OK?Day - a campaign developed by   R U OK?   in collaboration with   TrackSAFE . Find out how   here.


By hello 19 Apr, 2017

With rail workers sometimes exposed to trauma on the job, finding ways to create a more supportive environment has been a priority for the rail industry. Through the Rail R U OK?Day initiative, the TrackSAFE Foundation in partnership R U OK?, have been tackling the issue by giving rail workers the tools  to help deepen work place conversations and encourage colleagues to open up and support each other through tough times.

Bob Herbert AM, TrackSAFE Foundation Chairman said, “Rail R U OK?Day has helped the rail industry proactively address suicide on our networks in an attempt to reduce the number of incidents, while at the same time mitigating the trauma caused to rail employees, families and communities.”

"We strive to create healthy and resilient workplaces by empowering co-workers to support one another and continually check in, asking one simple question - "are you ok" ?

Depression, anxiety and mental trauma are very real issues impacting rail staff and first responders - and regular, meaningful conversations can really help.

 “We’re proud to celebrate our third annual, industry-wide Rail R U OK? Day. It is an important opportunity to convince workmates that they can make a real difference to someone who is struggling by having genuine conversations.” he said.

Watch the Rail R U OK?Day video .

Rail R U OK? Day’s launch event will take place at:

Where: Main concourse Central Station, Sydney.

When: Thursday April, 20.

Time: Formalities kick off at 9am followed by a BBQ.

Who: League legend and R U OK? Ambassador Brett Finch will speak to workers.

R U OK? Ambassador and former rugby league legend Brett Finch understands the stresses rail workers face.

“I know about the trauma and tragedy that can happen on Australian rail networks,” he said.

“My father-in-law works on the rail and I know first hand the life changing experiences he’s been through and the impact it has had not only on him, but also his family.

‘’If you notice a workmate is a bit off or doesn’t seem themselves, don’t joke or make light of it, because it really could be something important you could help them open up about.”

R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher says he is proud of the successful collaboration between TrackSAFE and the suicide prevention charity.

“The R U OK? ethos has really been embraced by rail networks around Australia and more recently New Zealand,” he said.

“It’s testament to the fact that work places and rail workers have not only encouraged checking in with mates, but have whole heartedly embraced it.

“Rail workers witness some heartbreaking incidents on the job and by supporting each other everyone is better off at work and also at home.” he said.

“Rail R U OK? Day is a reminder to all rail workers to check in not just on the big day but anytime someone looks like they’re struggling.”

By hello 07 Apr, 2017

National suicide prevention charity R U OK? will visit Dubbo as part of Youth Week on Saturday, April 8.

The visit will be championed by R U OK? ambassador Steven Oliver who will talk with local students about the importance of checking in with mates and loved ones or anyone who might be struggling with life.

The event is supported by Dubbo Regional Council, TAFE NSW, headspace, Base Art Inc and the Ochre Opportunity Hub.

Oliver is probably best known for his cheeky role in ABC’s sketch, ‘Black Comedy’, in which he starred and also co-wrote.

While making people laugh is second nature to him, Oliver is also a passionate voice for suicide prevention, having lost family and friends himself over the decades. He is looking forward to reaching out to the Dubbo community about ways to support anyone who might be going through tough times.

“Can’t wait to get to Dubbo and connect with the locals because the older I get the more I realise that life is all about connecting. Connecting through a laugh, a chat, a handshake, whatever. That’s what I love about the R U OK? message,

“It’s about connecting with someone who might be feeling disconnected and it’s letting them know, ‘Hey, I see you and you matter,’ because sometimes in our lives we feel like we don’t and no one should ever feel like that,” he said.

R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher said it was so important for R U OK? to visit regional cities like Dubbo. “This year our focus is to reach and make an impact on regional and remote communities where we are acutely aware that suicide statistics are on the rise. Having the support of a dedicated R U OK? ambassador like Steven Oliver just makes the visit all the more meaningful,” he said.

Base Art Inc’s vice president Lionel Wood will emcee the TAFE NSW Student Hub event and sell raffle tickets to win a signed portrait of Steven Oliver.

The #cantevenask event will be held at:

·       TAFE NSW Dubbo Student Hub (A Block) Myall Street, East Dubbo.

·       Time: 11am until 12.30pm

 Lunchtime event:

·       Apollo House for a BBQ lunch in collaboration with Backtrack Bootcamp.

·       Time: 1pm until 2pm

  TAFE NSW Student Engagement Officer Brigid Palin is thrilled to have Oliver visit the Student Hub and reach out to the students on such an important subject.

“TAFE NSW are huge supporters of the R U OK? ethos and we constantly encourage our students,

teachers and the Dubbo community to check-in on their family, friends and colleagues. We offer quality support through a number of vital support services including counsellors and Aboriginal and Disability support staff,” she said.

"When a community is struck by tragedy we all need to remember to look after each other.”

“The people of Dubbo have experienced a number of tragic events in the past few months, so it’s important we come together this weekend and make a commitment to start these important conversations which can be life-changing.”

headspace Clinical Leader Ann-Maree Hartley will also speak to the students about resources available in their Dubbo office.

“It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, youth suicide is concerning, but living in regional and remote Australia means that our local rates are always significantly higher than the national average,” she said.

“Young people are great advocates for their mates, we see it all the time at headspace Dubbo. If a

friend is having problems, it can be their friend who is the first one to know and walk them through our door.”

Dubbo Regional Council’s Youth Officer Jason Yelverton said having Oliver visit Dubbo as part of Youth Week was a great thing.

“Steven Oliver is someone who really resonates with Dubbo youth, the fact that he’s visiting the city to discuss a much needed message during youth week, is a win for the whole community.

By hello 23 Mar, 2017

Michael Winn is a freelance journalist who uses Write For Your Figh t as a platform to inspire change through personal stories. He believes we are the change that we want to see in the world and hopes this piece inspires more people to ask that simple but potentially life-saving question, “Are you ok?”

Whether we’re going through a break-up, or a tough time at work, a time of confusion, or a time of need – there are moments in life where we all need a sounding board.

A person or a group of people who are there for us, to listen to us, or to discuss things with us. A safe space where we can truly open up, and let out exactly how we are feeling.

And when we aren’t feeling OK, a good sounding board can make all the difference in the world.

A sounding board can be found over a coffee, or over a beer. In a face-to-face conversation, or through a phone. With someone we know, or someone we don’t. When it comes to a good sounding board, it’s all about how we feel.

When you are with someone that can make you feel truly relaxed and cared for, listened to and safe, that’s when our walls come down, and the feelings that we have been harbouring inside can finally be released.

Whether it’s finding a health professional, or a friend that you know will always have your back, the power of a conversation can be the start of the healing process.

For me, opening up came slowly. It took me hitting rock-bottom to realise that internalising my pain, and masking it with a smile wasn’t going to make it go away. And over time, masking these feelings and emotions was turning a problem into an even bigger issue.

My sounding board came in a range of people, with a range of battles they each face in their own lives. It was through these conversations that we could share our pain, and shed our pain.

Conversations in the park, watching their child run amok on a playground. Nights on the couch with a cider and a boxset of American Horror Story. Or a private conversation at a family dinner – each conversation was different, but at the end of all of them, there was a weight lifted from my shoulders, and the more honest I was, the better I felt.

It took me a while to realise that by looking inside, and trusting my heart, that I knew there were people who would be there for me, no matter what I was going through.

I owe a lot to my sounding board - and when I get married next year, there’s a reason that three of them will be standing next to me, by my side, protecting me as always.

By hello 21 Mar, 2017

Did you know people living in neighbourhoods that are highly connected enjoy, overall, higher levels of physical and mental health?

That’s why we’re getting behind Neighbour Day, Australia’s annual celebration of community. You can get involved too this Sunday, March 26 by reaching out and connecting with your neighbours. You could grab a cuppa, throw a picnic or simply knock on the door of older person in your neighbour and say hi.  

Need more convincing? Getting to know your neighbours can reap plenty of benefits, including:

  • developing new friendships
  • feeling an increased sense of security
  • being able to ask your neighbour to keep an eye on your home, collect your mail or feed your pet while you're away on holidays. Even give you that extra egg or cup of sugar when you need it.
By hello 10 Mar, 2017

On Saturday the 11th of March, Lake Cargelligo Recreation Ground will be the venue for the Jamarle Harris Memorial R U OK? Football & Netball Day. The event is the concept of the Harris / Smith family who lost their son/brother to suicide 3 years ago.  The family have planned the event as a way of thanking the local community for the support the family received after their loss and encouraging everyone to check in with anyone who may be struggling with life.

The action packed event will include two games of netball with Lake/Tullibigeal playing against Northern Riverina League Invitational sides, a Golden Oldies combined football & netball match; Auskick; men’s, women’s, boys and girls sprint races along with the ‘Big Bopper’ open sprint for 100kg plus entrants.

The main game of football will see last year’s NRFL premier’s Tullibigeal Hoppers and runners-up Lake Tigers combine to take on a NRFL Invitational team made up of players from Hillston, West Wyalong, Ungarie, Condobolin and some players from the Sunraysia League (around Mildura). The match will feature a number of young and upcoming stars of the Northern Riverina in a pre-season hit-out to help promote the R UOK? message of looking out for your mates. Entry to the event is free and the kiosk will be operating to cater for the day.

Later in the evening, a dinner will be held at the Lake Cargelligo Bowling Club featuring guest speakers Chris McGregor from ‘Mate Helping Mate’ and former NRL player and boxer Joe Williams. An auction of commemorative jumpers worn on the day and AFL memorabilia will be conducted on the night with all funds raised going to R U OK?, Mate Helping Mate and a local Close the Gap charity which will help support young people in sport and recreation pursuits and contribute to holding future community events.

Tickets for the dinner are $25 for Adults and $10 for children aged 15 and under and include a two course meal along with the entertainment. They can be purchased at Lower Lachlan Community Services  from Wednesday 1st March, or at the door on the night if still available.

By hello 10 Mar, 2017

R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher will attend the Queanbeyan rodeo this Saturday to encourage rodeo-goers to check-in with their mates and loved ones or anyone who might be struggling with life.

The Patches Asphalt Queanbeyan Rodeo will be held on Saturday 11th March 2017 at Queanbeyan Showground, Glebe Ave, Queanbeyan.

Brendan said, “People living in regional and rural areas know what it’s like to do it tough and a lot of times have been raised to think it’s not okay to speak up and ask for help when they’re going through challenging times,

“I hope to have some good quality conversations with the Queanbeyan folk and give them some strategies to ensure the people in their lives are connected and protected from suicide.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone,” he said.

The R U OK? marquee will feature inspiring videos playing on the big screen and a Q&A will take place with Brendan and the rodeo’s Justin Potter

In addition to providing an action packed evening of family fun, the Patches Asphalt Queanbeyan Rodeo raises money for various local charities like R U OK? and other organisations.

The 2016 rodeo saw top riders from all over Australia kick up the dust, including Carl Green who took out the John Mills Memorial All Round Highest Point Award at Queanbeyan Rodeo 2016.

The Queanbeyan Rodeo were awarded Outstanding Community Event by John Barilaro in 2016 and also awarded the 2016 Committee of the year from the Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft and Rodeo Association.

Entries from Australia’s top cowboys and cowgirls. Top prize money in all events.   Local (Yass) stock contractor, George Hempenstall, will be bringing his legendary bucking bulls and both JP “Happy” Gill and Rick Wilson will be bringing the very best of their bucking horses.

The sensational bullfighters, Rodney Ray Mansell and Lance Bonham, will be on hand to protect the cowboys and the hilarious Al Wilson will be entertaining the crowd from within the arena.

All the action can be seen live and also on the ‘big screen’ above the chutes. Great food and bar facilities and lots of carnival entertainment for the kids will make the 2017 Patches Asphalt Queanbeyan Rodeo a great day/night out!

o   Opening Times:

Gates open at 2pm with the main event 4pm till late.

o   Admission:

Adults $20, Aged Pensioner $15, Children 8-15yrs $15, under 8 free, Family Pass (2 Adults & 2 Children over 8) $60.


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