Two decades as a peer support person has taught CFA District 5 Headquarters Brigade volunteer and Commander David Ferguson that forming a connection is key to getting to the bottom of whether someone is really okay.
As CFA marks R U OK? Day, Commander Ferguson said this year’s theme ‘Are they really OK? Ask them today’ was about getting “that depth of conversation” when checking in on someone.
The theme is in response to new research revealing 22% of Australians aren’t reaching out because they don’t think someone needs their help, but Commander Ferguson said most people welcome support even if they don’t ask for it.
He said peer support sometimes work tends to be relatively reactive in that CFA members will contact a peer directly or ask to speak with someone via CFA’s free and confidential Wellbeing Support Line (1800 959 232), which is available to CFA volunteers, staff and their families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“I think days like R U OK? Day are good too because we try to do something to build that connection with people around us and then we can get that depth of conversation when we check in with someone,” he said.
Commander Ferguson, who volunteers as the Coordinator for the District 4 and 5 peer team, said requests for peer support had remained fairly steady in his area in far South West Victoria throughout the pandemic, but added:
“I do think people’s buckets have more in them at the moment and I believe some of that is related to covid,” he said.
He said lack of social contact but also reduced opportunities for self-care activities could build up, and he urged Victorians to reach out to people around them, look for new ways of looking after themselves and their own resilience, and not hesitate to seek help if they were struggling.
In addition to its Peer Program and Wellbeing Support Line, CFA offers a number of wellbeing programs, including the Member Assistance Program (MAP) and Chaplaincy Program.
Visit www.ruok.org.au to learn more about R U OK? Day.