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RU OK to Start a Conversation

Today is R U OK Day.

This is our national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone to ask, “Are you OK?” and to remember every day of the year to support people who may be struggling with life's ups and downs.

Asking RU OK is particularly important at work. As employers or staff, we can all create a culture where people feel confident asking and answering this simple yet important question.

Besides our legal responsibility of providing a safe and healthy workplace, these conversations can make a real difference to staff going through a tough time. Have you got a niggling feeling that someone you know or care about it isn’t behaving as they normally would?

Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves. Trust that gut instinct and act on it. By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up.

If they say they are not OK, you can follow our conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are OK, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask.

Before you can look out for others, you need to look out for yourself. And that’s OK. If you're not in the right head space or you don't think you're the right person to have the conversation, try to think of someone else in their support network who could talk to them.

To help you decide whether you’re ready to start a meaningful conversation, ask yourself:

Am I Ready

  • Am I in a good head space?

  • Am I willing to genuinely listen?

  • Can I give as much time as needed?

Am I Prepared

  • Do I understand that if I ask how someone’s going, the answer could be: “No, I’m not”?

  • Do I understand that you can’t ‘fix’ someone’s problems?

  • Do I accept that they might not be ready to talk? Or they might not want to talk to me?

Have I Picked My Moment

  • Have I chosen somewhere relatively private and comfy?

  • Have I figured out a time that will be good for them to chat?

  • Have I made sure I have enough time to chat properly?

1. ASK R U OK?

  • Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.

  • Help them open up by asking questions like "How are you going?" or "What’s been happening?"

  • Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like "You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?"

If you get push back from your initial approach, don't criticise the person and maybe you could just say that you are concerned about them and the changes you have noticed in their behaviour and you care about them. Avoid any confrontation and if the person still doesn't want to talk then you could say; “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”


  • Take what they say seriously and don't interrupt or rush the conversation.

  • Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them.

  • If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence.

  • Encourage them to explain: "How are you feeling about that?" or "How long have you felt that way?"

  • Show that you've listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly.


  • Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”

  • Ask: “How would you like me to support you?"

  • Ask: “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”

  • 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.

  • You could say, "It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I'm happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”

  • Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times.


  • Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they're really struggling, follow up with them sooner.

  • You could say: "I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted."

  • Ask if they've found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven't done anything, don't judge them. They might just need someone to listen to them for the moment.

  • Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.

If you’ve noticed someone’s distracted or got a lot on their plate, take the time to ask ‘R U OK?’ By starting a conversation, you could help a workmate open up about what they’re going through. Don’t try and ‘fix’ their problem but instead help them think of steps they could take to better manage the situation. Try asking:

  • ‘What have you done in the past that’s been helpful?’

  • ‘How would you like me to support you?’

  • ‘What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?’

For more tips to help a workmate, visit the RUOK website by clicking here it could make all the difference

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