Genuine conversations with our friends, family and colleagues are a vital step in combatting suicide and mental health issues.
R U OK? Day is an important reminder for everyone to have an honest discussion about how we are feeling.
Asking someone you are worried about if they are okay can sometimes be daunting. However, you do not need any special training to show someone you care.
How to ask R U OK?
Sometimes being direct and asking them straightforward if they are okay can make all the difference.
Ask if they’re okay. Take a relaxed and friendly approach. Explain why you are asking and mention specific moments that have made you concerned.
Listen without judgement. Take what they say seriously, be patient, and don’t interrupt.
Encourage action. Reassure them that you are here to help them. Discuss different options of support available to help them begin to feel better.
There is no one right way to ask someone if they are ok or show them that we care. Some people may not respond well to a direct question. Different communication styles, the type of relationship you have with the person and even COVID restrictions can change the way we might approach checking in on someone.
How to check-in when they say they are fine
A natural response when someone asks if we are okay is to just answer, ‘yes’, ‘I’m fine,’ or ‘don’t worry about it.’
Do not take it personally if someone brushes off your attempt to ask how they are. They may not be ready to open up, prefer to talk to someone else, be too embarrassed or not believe talking can help.
If you are worried about someone who isn’t ready to talk, there are other things you can do to show support.
Let them know that you care and when they are ready to talk, you’ll be there. Do not make your friendship conditional to them seeking support. Stay present, consistent, and connected in their life.
Do an activity
Next time you hang out suggest doing an activity that is beneficial for their mental health. Going for a walk, drawing together, or driving somewhere beautiful are all simple ways you can boost mental wellbeing without having ‘the talk.’ Avoid doing activities that can hinder the person’s mental health, like meeting at a bar.
Offer another option
You might not be the person they feel most comfortable talking to, and that’s okay. Ask them if there is someone they would rather talk to, whether that is a friend, family member or mental health professional. Although it might be disheartening to hear they don’t want to open up to you, the most important thing is that they are accessing support.
If you believe they are planning to harm themselves or are in immediate danger, call 000 immediately. This may be scary. But not doing anything is scarier.
If you can, stay with them. Do not leave them alone unless you’re concerned about your safety.
How to check-in if they are in lockdown
Unfortunately, lockdowns and COVID restrictions have become the new norm. As we all might have experienced, lockdown can cause a strange mix of feeling both isolated and socially exhausted. Video call overload, constantly checking social media and trying to keep in contact with various friends and family members individually can make the thought of having a conversation about our mental health more draining than helpful.
If you are worried about someone who is in a lockdown but fear they might be fatigued by conversation, there are other ways you can stay connected. Writing a letter, sending flowers, leaving baked goods at their door, or sending them a playlist are all unique ways you can ensure the person knows you care.
How to check-in if you don’t know them well
If you are worried about someone you are not close with, it can be easy to brush it off thinking it may not be your place to ask or there are closer people in their life looking out for them.
Never assume they have other people supporting them. You may be the only person who has noticed a behaviour change, or they might be isolating themselves from their support network or they may not have a support network to begin with. If you are worried about someone, trust your gut and reach out.
Reaching out can be as simple as asking them for a coffee and a chat. If you do voice your concern, make sure you are specific about why you are worried to help them understand why you are asking.
How to check-in on yourself if no one checks in on you
We can often spend so much time worrying about our friends and family that we forget to check in on ourselves.
R U OK? Day is a great time to reflect on your own mental wellbeing. Some good questions to help you to start thinking about how you have been tracking include:
- How am I feeling right now?
- How long have I been feeling this way?
- What is stressing me out the most at the moment?
- What are three things I’m grateful for right now?
If you are feeling like you are struggling with your mental health, do not wait for someone to reach out to you; be brave and ask for help. Your friends and family are there to support you, all you need to do is ask for it.
If are feeling embarrassed to ask for help, remember that everybody struggles from time to time, and it is ok to not be ok. If you do not have someone that you feel comfortable talking to you can go to a mental health professional or call a 24/7 national support line.
R U OK? Day is a great reminder to check in on ourselves and the people around us. However, this shouldn’t just be a yearly occurrence. To make a real difference it is important to reach out, foster supportive relationships and have honest and meaningful conversations regularly.
National support lines
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 497
Kids Helpline (up to 25 years): 1800 551 800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Men’s Line Australia: 1300 789 978
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
Q-life LGBTQIA+: 1800 184 527
Lifeline Text (6pm-12am): 0477 131 114
GriefLine: 1300 845 745