Every day in Australia, nine people end their lives by suicide and this is more than double the national road toll. For every one person who dies, there are 39 attempted suicides. What is even more frightening about these figures is that they are pre COVID -19 statistics and these numbers have increased dramatically over the past twelve months.

This week’s guest is Julie-Anne Whitfield who has been a Hospitality & Training Professional for over 35 years and four years ago, she proudly became an ambassador for RUOK? RUOK is a non for profit harm prevention organisation that encourages people to stay connected and have meaningful conversations with others who are going through the most difficult times in their lives.

In this episode, Julie-Anne discusses how the RUOK organisation contributes to suicide prevention efforts by encouraging people to invest more time in their personal relationships and to build informal support networks within the workplace. Julie-Anne explains how we as friends, family and colleagues can become more alert to the behaviours of those around us, how we can recognise signs of difficulty or distress, how to have a conversation with someone who we identify is in need of help, and how to connect them to the appropriate support, long before they are in crisis. Julie- Anne stresses that it’s about trusting our gut and our intuition when we think someone is struggling with life and the importance of creating a culture around support, connection and caring in the workplace environment.

The message in this episode is that we can all make a difference!

In this episode

1:08 – Introduction

12:15 – What is RUOK?

23:09 – Why is there shame in asking for help?

26:40 – The four step action plan

32:11 – What is the right approach?

42:55 – The importance of checking back in

46:46 – Recognising the signs in a virtual world

51:38 – Finding more resources about RUOK

RUOK Offical Website

Episode Transcription

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:10

Hey, it’s Dr. Marisa Lee Naismith here and I’m so honoured to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. Listen and you will be inspired by amazing healthcare practitioners, voice teachers, and music industry professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to help you live your best life every day. As singers, our whole body is our instrument and our instrument echoes how we feel physically, mentally and emotionally. So don’t wait any longer, take charge and optimise your instrument now. Remember that to sing is more than just learning about how to use the voice. It’s about A Voice and Beyond! So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 01:08

Every day in Australia, nine people end their lives by suicide. And this is more than doubled the national road toll for every one person who dies, there are 39 attempted suicides. What is even more frightening about these figures is that they are pre COVID-19 statistics and these numbers have increased dramatically over the past 12 months. This week’s guest is Julie-Anne Whitfield who has been a hospitality and training professional for over 35 years and four years ago she proudly became an ambassador for RUOK? RUOK is a non for profit harm prevention organisation that encourages people to stay connected and have meaningful conversations with others who are going through the most difficult times in their lives. In this episode Julie-Anne discusses how the RUOK organisation contributes to suicide prevention efforts by encouraging people to invest more time in their personal relationships and to build informal support networks within the workplace. Julie-Anne explains how we as friends, family and colleagues can become more alert to the behaviours of those around us how we can recognise signs of difficulty or distress. How to have a conversation with someone who we identify is in need of help and how to connect them to the appropriate support long before they are in crisis. Julie-Anne stresses that it’s about trusting our gut and our intuition. When we think someone is struggling with life and the importance of creating a culture around support, connection and caring in the workplace environment. There is so much vital information packed into this episode. Without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:34

Welcome to a voice and beyond Julie-Anne, It’s so lovely to have you here. I’m going to ask my first question of you and that is, are you okay?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 03:48

Thank you for asking. Marissa. Yes, I am okay. I continually check in with myself on a daily basis. And whilst we’re in exceedingly troubling and challenging times, I am I am okay. And thank you for asking.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:03

And I know you’re on your own, you have been in isolation or I shouldn’t say isolation because you have, you’re not isolating. But you have been in lockdown for quite some time. You are on your own but you do have your son’s dog. If I remember.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 04:23

Amazing, lovely have my son decided in February, he was going to escape Sydney and go to Queensland, but couldn’t take the dog because man, give me all alone. So yes, we’re just coming up to now seven weeks in lockdown into nearly every week of lockdown. And unfortunately, I don’t see it alleviating in the near future. So the numbers today are still not going in the direction they need to be going in. So but again, I think it’s about routine. It’s about checking in with yourself and it’s about Making sure you do a little bit of self love.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 05:03

Exactly. Now, why you’re here on the podcast is because I came across you in the foodie coach’s group. Now my husband has a cafe in Queensland in Australia. And he belongs to an amazing group, a very supportive group that is basically professional development for people in the hospitality industry. And I can see now that there’s a lot of personal development going on within that group. Also, there seems to be a little bit of a segue happening. And this is where I heard you speak, Julianne, I happen to be in the room when you were speaking. And my ears just went Hold on a moment here. What this woman is saying is fantastic. Other people need to hear this. We all need it. Right now. We all need it. We all need help. We all need to check in on each other. And like, I’m kidding, I get emotional every time I talk to you. Okay. I’m glad you’re starting. Because you know, I’m like, dude, I were gonna be a mess. Okay, just so the listeners know, halfway through this for both PMS. But warning? Yes. Okay, so you’ve been in hot in the hospitality industry for 35 years? You have been an ambassador for Are you okay, for four years? And that is what I’ve heard you speaking about. And some people may say, okay, will you work with the hospitality industry? Why are you here, when most of the audience in this pod particular podcast is predominantly the voice community and people associated with the arts? This is where I thought there are a lot of similarities between the two industries. So I’m going to let you share your thoughts on that.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 07:16

Thanks, Marisa, I think, as you said, Yes. My background is hospitality. For Yes. 35 plus years, we don’t like to talk age. But

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 07:25

no, we’re 21. It was pre conception,

Julie-Anne Whitfield 07:30

correct? Absolutely. But I suppose in probably the last 10 years of my career, I’ve been doing a lot of leadership and management training within the hospitality industry. And I just found that there was this need of leaders and managers who don’t necessarily have the skill sets and haven’t been trained to be leaders. Hospitality is very much you’re on the floor, you’re in the back of house in the kitchen highs and lows, you do what you do, the service periods you’re on, you’re off they were the adrenaline. And certainly the, the service periods can keep you in a very high state of anxiety in some situations. But as a leader, you don’t necessarily get trained to lead people, you’re really good at what you do. All of a sudden, you’re a supervisor. Next thing, you’ve got 10 people that you’re leading. So as part of that, I also looking at these leaders, we’re finding that they weren’t connecting with their team, they weren’t connecting with other people within the industry, as much as they should be. And to me, it was very much like that, wearing a mask there. And we used to actually say, when you’re going front of house when you’re walking out, you’re on stage. Yes. So in that regard, I feel there’s some similarity because often, and certainly in front of house situation, your walk out there, you’ve got the makeup on everything you presented beautifully. And nobody really knows what’s going on inside you. In the back of house in the kitchen situation. It is high pressure. It’s very intense. Certainly over the last probably five years or so it’s become a better environment to work in. But it’s hard. It’s stressful. People, as I said, the highs and lows, so you’re up and you’re down and and the other thing I think probably in hospitality were quite addictive personalities. And I thinking that again, we have a little bit of a similarity with with that. And it doesn’t necessarily mean we go down that line of addiction, but we like the highs. We like the lows. We like the attention. We like the stress levels to a certain extent, but sometimes we don’t necessarily get taught how to handle that. Well.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 09:49

Exactly. And you’re so right about putting on a front and that’s exactly how it is in the entertainment industry. I know that there were many times where something had gone on in my own life. And I’m driving to a gig and I’m crying and really upset. And then it was like, on Poker Face up, you get you entertain. But all you’re doing is putting a bandaid on a festering sore momentarily. And then it’s got to spew out at some other point of time. And it just keeps backing up. And and that is exactly what hospitality is like, with. The only thing is your audience’s slightly different. One, you’re giving the service to a table. The other one, you’re giving a service where you’re offering yourself like you’re offering someone else. Yeah, but ships, I believe a pretty much. I know they’re pretty volatile. Especially.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 10:56

And I think that that’s something definitely that has been the training in the past. I think we’re getting better. And that, but it’s also the creative where if

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:07

that’s it, that’s what I’ll eat. Yes. And that’s what we do. We’re creative folk. And I think we we are very much like ships. And with a chef, they had that instant gratification. If someone enjoys a meal, they get that feedback with us. When we perform and someone claps, we get that instant gratification, and then you go home, and then yeah, the highs and the lows of the industry. So I think that there’s certain element of perfection about it. Yes.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 11:39

Yes, it’s right. It’s got to be on and you can be quite critical of yourself because of that creative side of things. And with the ship. If it isn’t 100% perfect. It doesn’t go out.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:51

Yes. And, and yeah, and too, we can tend to take things rather personally, because it is our craft. And it is something that we’ve created in that that moment in time. So how did you come to be involved in Iu? Okay, well, first up, what is Are you okay, and how did you come to be involved?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 12:15

Okay, are you okay? is a nonprofit organisation that creates awareness around suicide. I’m not sure if you’re aware of some of the statistics, which I might go into in a little bit. But the most, the most outstanding or outrageous statistic that I that is always front of my mind is Marisa nine Australians every day, in their life by suicide, that is outrageous. That’s more than double the national road toll. So I was in a situation as I said, I was training ships and front of house hospitality leaders, and I had probably 15 students on a weekly basis. And they would be doing a diploma of leadership or whatever with them. Mostly in every single one of those groups, or one or two people who were suffering, who could not deal with the stress of their role. They could not reach out to people. And at one stage, I was the leadership trainer for the marybelle group. And one of their executive chefs, who was a mentor to many of the chefs, I was training and decided one day that he couldn’t be here anymore and decided to take his life that had a ripple effect on these young chefs who mentor who looked up to him. Yeah. And I felt a sense of, I felt a bit useless, to be honest. And it was very difficult. And because I was like a wasn’t involved in the business as such, I was an external sort of counselling person coming in. They, they kind of were drawn to me. So I reached out to you Okay, then. And I said, this is becoming quite horrific within the hospitality industry. The statistics were bad. They were dealing with these things as well. And so I reached out and we created an IU. Okay, hospitality campaign over the last few years, and I did some fundraising in that for them. And, and as I said, it’s about creating awareness that people are coping. Were not having the conversations we need to have leaders are feeling that they have the strength, or the tools to be able to have these open and honest conversations. And to be honest, too many of us are very nice. And they were just not doing this enough. So yes, I’m very passionate about Are you okay? I feel that the more that we can spread the word that people can Feel that they have the confidence and the tools to be able to ask the question, and then be able to respond in a way. And it’s just about reaching out to people. And to be honest, in the last 18 months, that’s just become more critical than ever.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 15:14

Absolutely. And I think it’s important to note that you ik is not a counselling service, or a service provider, what you are doing is raising awareness, and giving people the tools to start identifying those who are in need, and how to approach those people. And I know we’re going to go into that in a moment, because there is is a four step action plan that has been created by you. Okay. Now with the with that group. It’s no longer like, it’s not hospitality specific. No, because I’ve been on the website, there’s not one for entertainment, but there is one, I mean, I believe that what is relevant for the Hospitality Group is absolutely relevant for the the arts. And there is one for education for those singing teachers out there. And it is an Australian organisation, but it is relevant to every country in this world. Because if we’ve got these statistics, we wouldn’t be exclusive. These statistics would be happening everywhere and possibly, much higher than than what we’re having, because with being in COVID, relatively less impacted than many other countries.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 16:51

Right? Correct. Yeah. And actually find, Marisa that these, these statistics, I was doing some comparisons with the United Kingdom, and were very much on par with where they are at the moment as well. So it is a worldwide thing. 75% of suicides are male, and they are aged between 15 and 44. That’s scary. They’re scary numbers. And yeah, part of that the I okay, was started by Gavin Larkin, whose father committed suicide. And he couldn’t deal with that and wanted and felt that it was a certainly a mouse dominated area where they couldn’t reach out, they felt that they weren’t confident to do that. And it is about educating people to say, it’s okay not to be okay. And it’s fine to be able to reach out and talk to somebody about it. And this is just, whether it’s somebody within your workplace, within your social group, within your, your peers, anyone that you can feel confident, to be able to have the conversation and to ask,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 17:58

yep, I’m going to share something here that I haven’t shared, and I don’t talk about, it’s kind of something that’s buried way back. But it was something that took me a lot of years, and even after I remarried and had another child was still something that I carried with me every day, but my first husband committed suicide. He was 33. And, like, I just think sometimes that we miss those signs. You don’t realise, you know, and I think sometimes this is just my belief, sorry, that I’m getting upset. I promised myself I wouldn’t, but I want to talk about it. I believe that if someone is serious about suicide, quite often, you miss the signs, because they don’t want to be found out. And a lot of the times the ones that aren’t successful, are the ones that are crying out for help, and you can still help those people. But that’s just my thoughts as someone who’s a suicide survivor, that I’ve had someone close to me committed suicide.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 19:19

I think it’s also and that’s probably why this is so important. This this awareness is often it’s the people closest to them, that they hide it the most from and potentially when they do reach out or if somebody asks, it’s usually somebody, not necessarily within that close circle, not always, and there’s no rhyme or no reason necessarily. Yeah, but it certainly is. It certainly is. It’s about knowing and reading some signs, and more importantly, just opening the conversation and just asking and it’s a great Ah, that platform of support and an awareness that I’m noticing that you’re not quite yourself? Yes. And it may not be me that you’re comfortable talking to, it may be somebody else. Yeah, that’s what are you, okay is about it’s about connecting that person with somebody who can support them, and the average connection.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 20:25

So with those suicide rates that you were talking about their 2019, aren’t they then then not the COVID.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 20:36

Like, so. But, and I have had discussions with the locating this week. And certainly from the statistics, although, again, it’s very difficult to look at the statistics on a monthly sort of basis that would have done, yeah. But what they are finding at the moment is, well, for instance, Lifeline 10 days ago, had 3000, over 3300 calls in one day, Oh, my gosh, the highest number of calls they have had in the last 10 years. Well, what everyone call for every five calls, one call isn’t answered? Because there’s just not enough people. emergency departments, noting an increase in attempts. And for every one person who does suicide, there can be 39 people who attempt Oh, my goodness. So that’s, that’s the size of this absolute dreadful situation that we find ourselves in COVID is obviously not helping, and it’s about I don’t know if you’ve heard, but certainly I do when I’m speaking to the people. It’s, it’s words like anxiety. And I’m not coping, and the uncertainty. These are all things that people who may suffer with anxiety, it heightens things, people who don’t necessarily have suffered with anxiety are finding that they’re struggling. And as I said to you, this is as I said, nearly eight weeks in, in lockdown for me on my own. I’m a hugger, Marissa, it’s been seven weeks since I’ve been able to give somebody a hug. And we as humans need that contact…

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 22:50

We do need that. We do need that we need that human connection. It’s a basic human drive. It’s it’s something that lifts us and makes us feel human. Correct and and normal. That’s, why is there still so much shame in asking for help, because one of the things that we’re going to talk about is looking at those very things, how we can identify if someone needs help, because a lot of people still don’t ask for help. What is the shame around asking for help?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 23:32

And it’s that again, and this is across male and female? I think that within the workplace, there’s still a lot of barriers. There’s probably this year is very much the campaign for Are you okay, is very much about creating a workplace culture that supports asking the question, it’s sometimes a fear of somebody saying yes. Also sorry, somebody saying, No, I’m not okay. And then, oh, I don’t know what to do. So there’s that fear around it as well. It’s certainly the whole stigma around mental health. We’ve come a long way. And to be honest, I’m hopeful that because I feel we’re talking V and we’re talking about it a lot more now that we’ve actually got an understanding now that you it is okay to put your hand up and say I’m not okay. Yeah. needs help. Yes. That’s what this is all about. And certainly this year’s campaign is very focused on that.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:43

Yes, I know when my husband committed suicide, there was a lot of shame in asking for help specially for your migrant man, because these people are very proud and, and also to if someone did commit suicide, then they had to blame somebody, it couldn’t be that that person was suffering, someone must have done something to them to have that happen to them. So I think there has been a shift in that. But it’s still, you know, it’s still not okay, it’s still not, you know, it’s with, we can still do so much more. And one of the reasons that I reached out to you is because in our singing voice community, especially us singing teachers, who work one on one with students, quite often by a student using their voice, they start to speak up, and they start to share information with you, that you wouldn’t normally would that you wouldn’t ask for, you don’t particularly want to know. But by creating that safe space, it does become a place where we are often the frontline, we are often the ones that we see that we be, we’re very aware of how a student stands. So we can tell by the way that they walk in, if there’s something wrong with them, we know the sound of their voice, their speaking voice, even so well, we can tell by the sound of their voice, if there is something wrong with them, we can tell by their facial expressions, because that’s what we do week in and week out. And I think that is another really important reason why I wanted to have you in this podcast. So let’s go through the four step action plan. And the first one, I think is how do we identify when something is up with somebody?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 26:53

I think as you said, and you, you you, you said it beautifully. It’s notice the sides. Notice that things aren’t? What they usually are, something isn’t right. What are they saying? What are they doing? And what’s actually going on in their life? And sometimes that’s what we hide. So, what do I mean when I say what are they saying? They moody? Or are they hypo? can’t switch off? Yes..

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 27:33

yes. Yes, definitely.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 27:36

Are they lonely? Are they lacking in self esteem? They one of the big key indicators is that people often feel they’re not worthy, or that they’re a burden. And people would be better off without them. So it’s very much around their own self worth. Yeah, their own self esteem. Yes. And the fact that I imagine you as a as a singing teacher, you give them a voice. That’s why you give a voice, you will allow them to share that. And in doing so they’re also vulnerable. But if you provide that safe space for them, then they feel they can share. And that’s like in a lot of workplaces as well. For some people, the workplace can be safer than at home. Yes. For easier to be in, especially for some of our younger people. And so that’s why if you establish that connection, often that’s that’s an introduction into in into that support. What are they doing? Are they mood swinging? Are they becoming withdrawn? Are they unable to concentrate, potentially behaving recklessly, and you notice that potentially on social media, sort of being a little bit risky in their photography, in their behaviour, in their words, those sorts of things? Potentially changing sleeping pattern, or it might be they’re totally losing interest? So those are sorts of some of the key indicators. And it might be then what are they experiencing? What is what’s going on in their life? Is there a relationship issue? Is there a health issue, potentially with a family member? Is there stress within their work life or in their school life? Or, again, if the school aged, you know, the whole bullying and that sort of thing and even growing up? Yes.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 29:44

And and that is rampid. That is rampid. And I don’t believe the schools have yet got that right. They still don’t deal with that in a way that they could I don’t as much as They think that I don’t think that they do.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 30:04

I think it’s a minefield mirror. And I think adding that to social media, it’s constant, it is constant. It’s 24, seven, you know, back in the day, I’d go home, and that would be.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 30:17

Absolutely. And if someone wanted to contact you, they had to call the house phone. That’s where there was no social media, there was no internet. So you left school. And once you got off the school bus, and you walked in through that front door, you could switch off from everybody until you arrived back in that school ground again. Whereas now, I know these kids, I know, some of them are up till five in the morning chatting online. They’re not sleeping properly. I mean, this may we could go on and on and on.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 30:54

Yeah, no downtime. And that’s hard. And it’s hard for them. Because again, if they’re not in, they’re gonna miss something. Yes. Something.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 31:01

So that’s true. That’s so true. And so we’re looking, we’re listening to the language, and what words they’re using. We’re looking at behaviour. Yes.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 31:17

Changes just changes in that behaviour. And it might be, it might be subtle, it might be extreme in some situations, yes. But it’s about and as you said, you know, when they even just the way they physically walk in, Oh, absolutely. Holding themselves, you can see that having, and that’s what it’s about, but it’s about trusting your gut, when you think something isn’t right, and reaching out and just asking, and that can be whatever words come out of your mouth, I okay, is one way of doing it. But we can talk about some other ways something that’s natural feels good to you. It’s just an opportunity to say, I’ve noticed that you kind of not in a really good place or not feeling or not just you know, exhibiting your normal happy self. Can I help?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:09

Yes. That that takes me to that that next step. how we approach the someone that we feel is not quite themselves. Our gut is telling us there’s something up here with this person. Now in our singing voice community, is teachers whipping told that you are not psychologists? No. Okay. And no one pretends to be a psychologist. But what so how do we approach people without being psychologists or taking on the role as psychologist and not overstepping boundaries? So how do we approach that in the most ethical way?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 32:59

Okay, I think probably first and foremost, morosa, you need to ensure that you’re in a safe place, and that you are ready to ask.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 33:10

I’m always ready to ask.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 33:13

So and that’s what it is. And just the sheer fact that you asked me if I was okay. Because what we always want what even Catherine the CEO of a okay always says, If you wake up and you’re not okay, on that day, then that’s fine. You don’t have to do anything. For Are you okay, so it’s about as I said to you, it’s about that self checking. And yes, making sure yeah, the more you ask that question, or go through the four steps, you need to make sure you’re okay. Be ready, be prepared. Most importantly, pick the moment. If you know you’ve only got five minutes with them, it’s probably not the right time to be asking. So that’s number one is definitely make sure that you’re ready to ask the question. Then we go through the four steps, asking the question, listening, encourage action, and then check in with them afterwards. So if that’s okay, we might just go one by one through those steps.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 34:16

Absolutely. Fantastic. Fantastic, Julianne, thank you.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 34:21

So once you are okay in yourself and you’re feeling good about this, as you said, You trusting your gut and you’re feeling things aren’t right in any way, shape, or form. And it may be it may be Are you okay? It may be how you’re travelling. It might be you don’t seem yourself lately. Is there something I can do? Can we did you want to have a chat doesn’t have to be anything heavy, heavy might be I’ve just noticed that there’s a few changes. And even if you say specifically, you know, you just haven’t seen you’re happy. So if you haven’t had your energy, just go in lightly or it might be You’re very well aware that maybe something is going on in their life, big changes with family or whatever it might be. I know you’ve had some big things happening in your life. Are you okay?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 35:11

Yes, then I can I just don’t maybe suggest something too. This is for our, for the singing voice community, just the I have to go twos that I use, and my students know them. So if I asked them, because I check in with my students every single week, and I always have done every student has a quick two minute check in and it’s two questions. How’s your week been? Right? And that is like, they don’t feel that I’m asking anything. That’s untrue. It’s not threatening. And then the other thing is with if there are a student that is at school or university, and I do this with both, how you going with all your classes? Because if they’re not doing well in the class that they’re usually doing well in, you know, okay, there’s got to be something, why is that happening? But just those two simple questions, you keeping up with all your work. And if it’s an adult, How’s work going, you use, you know, your jobs going, Okay. They’re my check ins. And so other teachers are maybe feeling that they don’t feel comfortable asking some of those other questions that you mentioned. They may feel okay, we can do that. And my students know, like, by me asking that every week, they know I’m checking in on them. And and they have they’ve good with that.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 36:57

And you’ve done exactly exactly what this campaign this year is about research. It’s about creating that safe space, it to be up creating a workplace or an area of culture around connection and caring. And you’ve established that so they know those questions are coming. But they also know if they weren’t, they could have that conversation with you. And that’s what it’s about that trust yet been established. Jenny? Certainly heads. Yes. That is vital. That is absolutely vital.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:33

Sorry, I, yes, I interrupted you.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 37:38

No, no, that’s absolutely perfect. So step two is probably my opinion, some of the most important one of the most important steps is the listening. Oh, and this is not listening with the intent to reply, not listening with the intent to fix. It’s just be in the moment and listen. Yes, yes, I let him know that. Mm hmm. And even to a point of not saying too much, because sometimes when you open the floodgate, you just let it go. And for a lot of people, that’s enough, when someone cared enough to ask and cared enough to listen, and especially in inserting that safe workplace culture up, that’s a great way to do that. So it might be I’m here to listen, if you want to talk anymore. How are you feeling about that? So if they say something, rather than you having an opinion on that, asking them how they feel? How did that make you feel? So it’s them talking about how they feel rather than you telling them? How they should feel?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 38:50

Yeah. Does that make sense? Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. And

Julie-Anne Whitfield 38:56

that’s the number two is very important.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 38:59


Julie-Anne Whitfield 39:01

Number three is, this is where we come down to that you are not the counsellor, and you don’t have to fix everything. But encouraging some form of action. Now, as I’ve said, for a lot of people just being able to have that conversation, that action enough. But for a lot of us, we don’t know where that point is. Yeah, it’s about again, saying that you’re always here to support them. And if there’s anything he can do, what steps do you think you need to take in order to move forward with this? Is this someone that you can talk to? Is that a family member? Is it a friend, and potentially, if you feel it’s a little more serious? A little more threatening? Can you talk to your doctor?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 39:58


Julie-Anne Whitfield 40:00

That is that it’s about taking a step or a professional. And again, it depends on the degree. Obviously, if somebody is having a breakdown at that time, it would be, can I call somebody? Can I help you with that? But it’s not you taking on that? Because that’s not our role. But it’s asking them, you know, do you have a friend? Can you talk to this about your mum, with your mom? Can you talk to this about, you know, if it’s a child situation, if it’s an adult? Do you have a friend that you can you can talk to about this? Or do you think maybe you need to talk to your GP, because the GPA is probably go to number one to be then be able to put them in the in the right direction for professional help?

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:43

Yes. And a lot of schools these days have counsellors on site. And what, where I teach it, I teach in a school and in a university, and at the school, we have to refer up, if we feel that someone’s not quite being themselves, then there’s something going on, could be anything could be even an issue with something going on within the household, whatever it is, we have a duty of care to report that. And within the university, we have a form that we have to fill out. And we have to write what we think is, you know, what the what the student was doing what that was saying? And then, you know, do we feel that this goes to a counsellor? So there is there are protocols? Yes. Yes, it’s great. But we have to listen, though, just to get to that point, we have to make sure that we are listening. And yeah, and our teaching needs to be very student focused. Some, and that’s what it’s about, it’s not about us, it’s the person before the voice. And especially in today’s culture, we have to look out for that person before we look out for their voice.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 42:12

And that’s how I train leaders, and owners of businesses with footie coaches, the owners, your business isn’t your business, if you don’t have your staff, and they are the number one priority, you know, the whole customer is always right, the customer first now you’re not going to have customers if you don’t look after the people. And so it’s about looking after, and being focused on that. And that that is the reason you’re doing it. And it’s out of it’s out of concern. And it’s out of perspective, it’s out of trust, and it’s out of that relationship, and you’re coming from a good place. But you have to establish that relationship first. And that support network so that they feel comfortable, and you feel comfortable in that exchange. So the last one is what we would call the chicken. So in that situation, if you feel that they’re not in any danger, you’re not that they’re not going to harm themselves. It was just an exchange, it’s always most important thing is to check back in. Yeah, just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. That’s why I’m so much what you do every week with your students, because they know that’s coming. Mm hmm. That’s what I encouraged with with our leaders and owners in the in the businesses. It’s like check in with them every single day. Have a look, get that eye contact, make them unique. Hear them? Yes. Follow up, you know, did you do something about that? Did you reach out to somebody? Do you need some more support? You know, have things changed? Or things improved? Or even noticing? You seem to have a little more spring? In your step? You seem to have a little more energy? How are things going? Yeah, so it that’s the sort of four steps. So to ask the question, listen, encourage some form of action, and then check back in with them to see how they’re going.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:02

And I think part of that, that listening or part of that process after listening to i, this is something that I do. And look and I’m not trained. This is just my intuition. This is something that I’ve just developed for myself, instinctively, is to acknowledge. Yeah, and and it’s not about sometimes people just want that acknowledgement. And just for you to say, I hear what you’re saying. And you know, what, you have every right to feel like that. It’s your It’s you It’s there, your feelings, they’re valid, and it’s okay.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 44:43

And that’s the thing. It’s not about judging in any way shape, or no. It’s being able to listen, and it’s being able, as you say, to acknowledge them, and to truly see them. Mm hmm.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:55

And that’s the thing, isn’t it. Some people just want to be heard.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 45:00

I think we all want to be, we all want to be seen, we all want to be listened to. We all want someone to acknowledge that we matter, and that we’re important. And for somebody to say, you just don’t seem you, you know, that’s not accusing. That’s nothing. No, like, no unconcerned for you, person. Yeah. And I think wouldn’t this world be a better place? If we did a whole lot more of that

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 45:26

person? Absolutely. There’s a couple of things. One thing in our community is that we had to pivot to online teaching last year in order to continue to generate an income. And couple of things there. Firstly, how do we recognise the signs when a student is online? Like, do we have to be more hyper aware? Because maybe we can’t see those visual cues, the way that we would if they’re in person, we can’t hear their voices, because sometimes the technical difficulties, what something it’s like a couple of tips, perhaps that that we could use,

Julie-Anne Whitfield 46:13

it does make the process a lot harder, as I said, Yes. So much about gut and our instinct comes from how we feel in it in an exchange with somebody else in that connection. Yeah, absolutely. Um, so I suppose some of those sort of non physical signs that someone might be struggling, might be, again, potentially not turning up for regular Ah, yes, being excuses or reasons why they’re not turning up. Yeah. Ignoring messages, not getting back to you. cancelling engagements, cancelling sessions? Potentially, again, if you know them, and know that they may be a little bit isolated to all of this, or a struggling? Again, I think it’s looking at that, how are they interacting. And even though we don’t have the physical, you can tell, for instance, I was on a call today with one of our group calls. And I could tell just by the body language of one of these business owners, they were not in a good place. So you can still do it, it takes a little bit more, and you need to have that relationship and that understanding, but sometimes, you know, with, if they’re totally distracted, and they’re not involved, and they’re not engaged, could be two things. They bought or, you know,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 47:45

yeah, no, that was a craft lesson.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 47:49

And you’re a teacher. I had one, one instance today, I think it was on the telly or something where somebody said that watching the child who was doing online teaching, we had the teacher and they were going through something quite complicated. And the teacher sort of called out and said, Well, hey, Julie, what’s your thoughts on that? And the student just sort of went? Well, to be honest, sir. I zoned out. Great, you admitted it, but it’s, it’s there are two ways you can acknowledge that somebody is is disengaging, and just not their normal self. I’ve been looking at that, you know, not turning up here. Right. Yes. Yes. not responding to calls.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 48:38

You are so right. You’re so right about that. Because they’re the ones that I’ve identified, have had problems. And sometimes it’s a kids who have ADHD too, or are on the spectrum. They don’t cope with change. And they don’t cope, not having that human interaction. They need that. And they’re the ones that usually don’t turn up.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 49:05

And it is that change, they really don’t like change. But no, the whole world is the sense of order. And when that sense of order leads, so it’s about reaching out to that and see how you can potentially reorder those sorts of things. Yes. Yeah.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:20

And the other thing I’ve noticed and be interesting to see if other teachers and of course they can’t answer but just bringing this up, is that since we’ve come back to face to face teaching, that a lot of the students aren’t the same. They’ve come back, they’re more stressed. Some students haven’t come back at all. They haven’t come back the return to school. They’ve just not quote through this whole COVID thing. I know of children that were self harming during that time. children that have been medicated a lot of children now being medical hated for anxiety related issues. So we really are in dealing with a completely different world to what we were trained for. And this is what I’m thinking with, are you okay? It can give us those tools, not to go and fix the problems, but to create some sort of link between the person and them having that, that help that they need.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 50:30

And as you said, it’s that acknowledgement that things aren’t the same. No, they are, no, they’ve changed. And for whatever reason, and as I’ve said to you, for some people, you know, the home isn’t necessarily the happy place for them. School is often a refuge, like for many people work is a refuge. You’ve then got the the opposing, you know, for some parents, great parents until it comes to homeschooling, and then it’s like, oh, my God, I’m trying to do this, trying to do that. So the whole family unit has been affected, and I’m sure some have handled it better than others. I’m glad mine’s 27. And I’ve done that Well, no, no, Me, neither are aware that it is a different world out there. And to be honest, Marisa, I think that means we all have the obligation to actually look to the left, look to the right look to people and really reach out to everyone that we come into contact with an and, and try and make a difference and at least try and listen. Yes. And acknowledge.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 51:37

Yes. So how do people find out more about Are you okay, and have access to the resources where they can learn more about all this?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 51:51

Awesome, great question. Okay. So website is ruok.org.au. And right at the moment, we’re

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 52:00

just as sorry, and it’s the letters. Yeah, it’s not the word. Yeah. Just saying, What’s behind you, just everyone? Are they people that aren’t on YouTube won’t see that. But that’s okay. It’s the letters.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 52:16

Yeah. Are you okay? I’m on the ninth of September this year is what we call Are you okay? day, every year, we have an Ioh k day, but their focus this year is that every day should be an IU. Okay. Don’t. And the theme around So previously it’s been last year’s was there’s more to say after Are you okay? This year? Is? Are they really? Okay? Yes. You put that really, really in? Because people get Yeah, I’m fine. Yeah, I’m fine. I’m all good. And your guts say? No, they’re not? No, they’re not. And then it’s come back again and go. Are you really okay? I’m here to listen. So it’s pushing that point and taking it that step further. So if you go to the website, you can actually register for resources for Are you okay? It just goes on the on the first screen, it’ll just you click on that Ioh k day, and you can register, there’s so many free resources out there. Marissa,

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:19

I’ve just seen, yes, I’ve been on the website.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 53:24

There is so much, so much stuff. And, and so they really, really happy as I said, the mate shift manual, I think that’s something that we created for hospo, which I think will really transfer across beautifully with the entertaining metallic because it’s about that you guys are out for another. And it’s you know, that unity, I think it’s so you can register to get resources. And then you can also have an event. So on that day, it might be whatever it might be you do a link up with your students. And the resources again, we’ve even so you don’t have to spend a lot of money or do anything. It’s not about that. It’s about creating the awareness. So get everyone to wear yellow that day even. It can be that simple. But there’s so many resources out there obviously water bottles, you got everything out there. And it’s just a matter of creating that awareness. If you start on are you okay day to work around and create that culture of it’s okay to ask and it’s okay not to be. We’re just here to help one another. And I think more than anything else, that’s great. Also on the website, it has all of the professional organisations obviously as I mentioned before Lifeline and that’s where if we feel it’s a serious situation headspace for younger people, that tends to be and beyond blue, as certainly for for anyone but adults. It tends to be a little more involved for them. But certainly headspace is really good for the younger people. And they have lots of activities and things like that. And it’s just a form of connection. They tend to, to work towards the younger people more than the older ones. There’s so many out there, and they’re all on the website there. As I said, it’s not up to you to be the counsellor. It’s not up to you to fix them, but it is potentially up to you to check in on them. And at least give them an encourage them to take some form of action. If you’re

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 55:26

now around, are you okay day, I’ve been on the website, because I’m keen to have an event. So I will have an event. And I’m thinking that we need to have a wine and Convo event. On the it’s Thursday, the ninth of September, we’ll make it 7pm. I will create an event and share it on social media. And I think we should encourage everyone to have something yellow. On the day, whether it’s yellow, anything could be a wine glass, or it could be very yellow says blank. Which I would go is that really sad blog? But yes, we will have something and I will share it. But there are so many things on there. You can have a quiz night, you can have Bingo. You can have coffee and Convo. I mean, I’ve looked at all of these. And I thought what’s practical for me, and I thought this would be the easiest, and it’s just gonna be open to everybody, no matter where you are overseas. And in Australia. We’ll make it 7pm on Thursday, the ninth of September, via zoom, and we can just all check in ask, are you okay? But I like the idea of when my students were a little bit off when I used to teach a big, big group of students and I used to feel the vibe in the room was a little bit off as to go, Okay, everyone sit down in a circle. And we’d go around the room. And everyone had to say what I called a good week, bad week. What What’s the best thing that happened to you this week? What’s the worst thing that happened to you this week? And I think we should have like a good week, bad week, without wine and Convo. And that that I think that’s fantastic. And I think it’s really good to celebrate the wins. Absolutely. gratitude. I think that’s Yes. And and when you were talking about before, that we need to check in on ourselves. Before we check in on others. I have a whole morning ritual, I shouldn’t say a whole morning, sometimes I have to be at work by 730. But I get up two hours before I start work before I leave for work. And I have a whole ritual that sets me up to make sure I’m okay before I leave the house. So I can be there and be at my best to serve other people. And to be the best teacher that I can be. Because otherwise, he just you can’t do it. You can’t do it.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 58:27

There’s a lot of negativity out there, especially at the moment. And I’m saying I do my three gratitudes every year. Yes, you got to see the positive. If you continually going to look for the negative all the time, then you know, you’re not going to find that that balance and we all need balance. So we

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 58:44

do we do. So in wrapping this up. What is your personal mission here, Julianne? Because you are so invested in this. So what do you hope to achieve with your work?

Julie-Anne Whitfield 59:02

Create the awareness that it is okay to ask the question and it is okay not to be okay. And feel confident in that and feel that you can reach out to somebody that everyone has somebody they can reach out to. I would love to see the suicide rate decrease. I think it’s it’s it’s shameful. And as I said, we talk a lot about the national road toll. This is double it, and we’re not addressing it. So the more we can talk about mental health issues, the more that people are supportive, and the more that they feel that it isn’t something to be embarrassed about. And we all have our good days and bad days and to stop the bad days as much as we possibly can or at least have someone we can talk to about it. I think that’s a wonderful thing. More Connect More exchanges and support out there for each other as humans. I think that’s, that’s my mission.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:09

Yes, that’s fantastic. And listening to you, I was kind of getting a little cranky, not with you. But all of a sudden, I don’t know what triggered in my mind. But I thought of all those people on social media because you raise social media, and all the people that are causing chaos, they’re causing drama, they’re spreading misconceptions. They’re kind of being passive aggressive, they’re being bullies, instead of behaving, and, and carrying on with that behaviour. Instead of doing that, spend your time on social media checking in on other people. Stop it right now. Stop. That makes me so angry, because it takes a lot of effort to write some of those posts. But it only requires one sentence to find out if someone’s okay. Right. Right. So anyway, the more you get that, so that was my rant. I’m sorry, but but thinking about what you said, honestly, people have got a lot to answer for they need to stop right now and start worrying about other people rather than that their egos and their opinions.

Julie-Anne Whitfield 1:01:31

Correct. I totally agree with you put that side have created a genuine intention to connect with people and to be a decent human. Thank you.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:01:44

Well said. And I think on that note, we can really wrap this up. We could not say anything more articulately. And, and in such a great way. Thank you. And thank you for your time and good luck with your mission. I’m going to be following you. You don’t get rid of me every time. I know that you’re going to be on one of those calls. Andrew says julianne’s on today, right? I’m sitting next to you and I love listening to the messages that you’re sharing. Keep up the good work. We’re going to share the links to Are you okay? in the show notes, we’re going to create an event and help spread the word of you Okay, day on September 9, Thursday, September 9, at 7pm via via zoom. We’re going to have a wine and Convo night were yellow. And it’s going to be a good week bad week is the same of our wine and combo. I love it. Thank you so much. Where is it? No. Thank you. Okay, take care, Julianne, thanks so much for your time. Bye now. Bye.

Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:12

Hey, I hope you enjoyed this episode have a voice and beyond. Now is an important time for all of us to spread positivity and empowerment in our singing voice community. It’s time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth and education. use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow. So you can show up for your students feeling energised, empowered, and ready to deliver your best. Be the best role model and mentor you can possibly be and watch your students thrive as you do. Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, please make sure to share it with a friend or a colleague who you think will be inspired by this. Copy and paste the link and share it with the people you think will enjoy listening to this show. Please share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. If you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would love to know what it is you enjoyed the most about this episode. And what was the biggest takeaway for you? I promise you there are many episodes to follow as I’m committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one. I’d like to finish up with my final thoughts. Remember that to sing is more than just learning how to use the voice as singers. Our whole body is the instrument and our bodies airco We feel physically mentally and emotionally. So singing is not just about the voice. It’s about a voice and beyond. Please take care of yourself, and I look forward to your company next time.