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RUOK? Day moves to new date, time

Annual event encourages Ohio State community to discuss mental health

There is a small number of events at The Ohio State University that have earned the distinction of “signature event.” That is, an event planned entirely by students that has the potential to attract more than 1,000 students, all while enhancing social and community engagement for all students at the university. One of these events is RUOK? Day, held this year on Friday, March 24, from 12-3 p.m. in the Performance Hall of the Ohio Union.

“The university recognizes that we need an event of this nature, something that invites people into a conversation about mental health,” said Laura Lewis, assistant director of The Ohio State University Suicide Prevention Program (OSUSPP).

Students from BCAS at RUOK? Day 2022RUOK? Day is led by the Buckeye Campaign Against Suicide (BCAS), a student group that works with OSUSPP. The goal is for attendees to learn how to talk about mental health and suicide, and to feel comfortable reaching out to someone who needs help.

The event is free to attend and requires no registration, just an open mind and a willingness to learn, Lewis said. There are five sections, each one represented by a letter or the question mark in RUOK? The letters stand for:

  • R – Resources in the community
  • U – University offices and resources
  • O – Student organizations
  • K – Knowledge
  • ? – Asking difficult questions

“We’re trying to arm people with some confidence and some competence and willingness to engage,” she said. “When they leave the event, we hope they won’t be as afraid to open up. A conversation can save a life.”

Lewis tells the story of a student wearing a shirt from a previous year’s event who was stopped on campus by another student.

“The student who wasn’t wearing the shirt stopped and turned around to say, ‘you know, nobody’s ever asked me that question.’ My understanding is that with help from the student wearing the shirt, the student, who was in distress, was able to get support immediately.”

This year’s event will be the first in-person, at-capacity RUOK? Day since the COVID-19 pandemic began. After three years of limited in-person and virtual events, BCAS worked hard to incorporate best practices from both types of experiences.

“We really listened over the last couple of years,” said Fatimah Masood, a graduate student and graduate teaching assistant for BCAS. “We’ve tried to listen to what people need.”

“We’re trying to keep this as inclusive as possible,” added Caroline Ingraham, a fourth-year undergraduate and BCAS president.

In fact, the location alone allows for more interactions, Ingraham said. The Ohio Union is sees plenty of heavy foot traffic, with students studying, eating and otherwise spending time in the facility. Ingraham and Masood agreed that this leads to more people attending the event.

“There’s something special about being able to speak one-on-one, to get resources in-person,” Ingraham said. “Maybe you’re here just for the snacks but at the end of the day, you can have a conversation with someone who could help you.”

While the location has not changed, this year’s RUOK? Day is happening at a different time. In the past, the event was held on a Thursday evening, Lewis said. This year, it’s happening on a Friday afternoon.

“We figured we’d try lunchtime because we see a lot of students in the Union,” Masood said. “And it’s a Friday, so people may not be in as much of a hurry.”

Having the university’s support makes this important work easier, the BCAS members agreed.

“It makes me proud as a student to attend a university that makes mental health resources accessible to students,” Ingraham said. “I’m grateful we’re able to have a space to bring people together.”

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