R U OK? Day is a great opportunity to check in with family, friends or co-workers that may be suffering mental health issues in silence. Suicide and depression are extremely complex and sensitive subjects. By having meaningful connections and conversations with people, you can help with some of the things that may put them at risk.
The great news is you don’t have to be an expert to have this conversation – you just have to be a good friend, and a great listener. If you have the feeling that someone that you know is not acting themselves, ask them how they are going; if they say they are not okay, you can follow the R U OK? conversation steps to show someone that they are supported.
Getting ready to ask
Ask yourself these things:
- am I in a good headspace and ready to genuinely listen?
- do I understand that I am not trying to fix someone’s problems?
- do I accept that they might not be ready to talk to me or they might want to talk to someone else?
- have I thought about a good time and place to talk to someone?
- do I have enough time to chat properly?
How to ask
- Ask R U OK?
- Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.
- Be genuinely interested.
- If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them. Instead, you could say “let me know if you ever want to chat”.
- Listen without judgement
- Ask open-ended questions (questions that are likely to have an answer that is longer than one word, eg. “What are your plans for the weekend?”).
- Take what they say seriously and don’t judge or interrupt their conversation.
- If someone needs time to think, sit in the silence with them, sometimes it can feel uncomfortable to do this.
- If you didn’t understand what someone meant, repeat back (in your own words) what you think and check with them that you both understand each other.
- Encourage Action
- Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
- Ask: “What can I do to support you?”
- You could say “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this … you might find it useful too.”
- If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional.
- Set a reminder on your phone/diary to catch up with them again in a few weeks. Check-in sooner if you’re concerned.
- Ask if they have found a better way to manage the situation, if they haven’t, don’t judge them, ask them if there is anything you could do to help.
- Stay in touch and genuinely care.
If you feel concerned about someone’s safety, encourage them to phone lifeline (24 hour) on 13 11 14 or phone 000 if you believe their life is in danger.