2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and circumstances have made it even more important for us all to stay connected and, for those who are able, be willing to support those around us.
In the lead-up to R U OK? Day we’ll help Australians know what to say when someone says they’re not OK and guide them through how they can continue a conversation that could change a life.
You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a really positive difference to their life.
If you feel like something’s not quite the same with someone you know – there’s something going on in their life or you notice a change in what they’re saying or doing - trust that gut instinct and take the time to ask them “Are you OK?” If someone says they’re not OK, make time to listen, encourage action and check in. That conversation could change, or even save, their life.
ASK RU 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 they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them.
Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them.
Avoid a confrontation.
You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”
LISTEN WITH AN OPEN MIND
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.
IF THEY NEED EXPERT HELP
Some conversations are too big for family and friends to take on alone. If someone’s been really low for more than 2 weeks - or is at risk - please contact a professional as soon as you can.
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.
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:
If you would like to read more, check out the resources available or hear the latest news, check out the website here