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Why It's Important to Ask R U OK?


This piece was written by Tanya Hennessy, Canberra breakfast radio host and comedian.

I haven’t been listening.

I’m starting to hear now, but for a really long time I wasn’t listening.

I couldn’t hear positives. I couldn’t hear anything good. Because when we moved to Canberra, Australia, for a radio job last January, Ryan (my co-announcer) and I were mercilessly bullied online. It took a massive toll on my life, my mental health and my confidence.

We took over from a well-loved show and it was tough. Like really tough. People were so passionate about the show we took over.

The things people were saying about us even before we were on air were awful. Getting online at that time was horrific.

I moved here alone. I left my boyfriend in Queensland and my family was five hours away. At the beginning, I debated if radio was what I really wanted to do.

I was painfully alone. And people were raining down hate at every turn.

I can’t say most of what was written to us because it’s very violent, but here are some of the comments so you get the idea:

“This is why women shouldn’t be on the radio.”

“She is an embarrassment to women.”

“Ryan and Tanya are the worst thing to happen to Canberra.”

“This show does my head in. I can’t stand them. You have lost me as a listener forever. This is the worst radio I have ever heard.”

Someone started a Facebook account called “shit104.7” and tweeted us how bad we were. During Skyfire, (an event with 110,000 people we were emceeing and live announcing at) they called Ryan “lazy and boring” and me “Shouty Mc-no friends.”

On air, I shared I was struggling to find new friends and I was bullied for saying I was struggling.

Someone said, “I can see why she has no friends. This chick deserves no friends.”

A part of finding new friends for me was doing new things, so I did a dance class. I’m not a dancer. I was out of my comfort zone completely.  But I went along and at the end I did a Facebook video post about how liberated I was to find some new friends and I was proud of myself for going to this dance class. Then I saw a comment on Facebook that became my tipping point.

The comment said, “I want to hit this woman over the head with a chair.” That same person also messaged me on my page and said, “The things I want to do to you are so brutal I can’t even write them down.”

I was crying most days. I needed my family and friends to ask if I was OK. I needed my boyfriend to have conversations with me. I needed to talk it through. I needed them to reach out. I needed to talk.  

My mum and dad were here a lot. I needed them. Without my mum and my boyfriend I don’t know if I would still be in this job.

Without that conversation and connection I honestly doubt I would have stayed in this job. It was really very serious. Someone needed to ask if I was OK. Because I really wasn’t.

Right now, I’m fine. I have come through it.

I maintain moving has been the best decision I have ever made. I have come out of it better. Stronger. I now have procedures and ways to deal with the hate online and the spiraling anxiety and depression.  

I needed my people to reach out and ask if I was OK. Because simple conversation, human interaction and compassion can help people from making serious life or death decisions.

Through connection and asking one question, you can save a life. That is what R U OK? is all about.

I wasn’t listening and the only question I could hear was – are you OK?

I’m so thankful I was asked this question and that’s why I am so proud to work with R U OK?

We get so busy and caught up in our lives that we sometimes forget to ask. But we have to make time in our days. We need to reach out. You are not alone.

Find the right time and ask R U OK?

 R U OK? is a nonprofit organization that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year. But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at ruok.org.au.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via Tanya Hennessy Facebook Page.