R U OK? Day: Your chance to make a difference
In this day and age, almost all of us know someone who is suffering from some kind of mental illness – be it depression, anxiety, bipolar etc. We all want to help those people in our lives who are suffering with their mental health, but sometimes we don’t know how to ask if they are okay, let alone know how to help them. But there is a chance for you to learn how to make a real difference in the life of someone who may be struggling.
Thursday 14 September 2023 is national R U OK? Day, a chance for people across Australia to educate themselves on how to open up and have difficult conversations about mental health, a chance to learn how to support someone who is struggling and how to point them in the right direction to get the help that they need.
Why do we need R U OK? Day
It’s not always easy to ask people about their mental health, but it could be one of the most important conversations you ever have. A lack of connection with others can be a major factor that contributes to people experiencing depressive feelings. Research shows that 57% of Australians want to be asked the question, “Are you OK?”
R U OK? is a public health promotion charity that encourages people to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives. Their work focuses on building the motivation, confidence, and skills of the help-giver – the person who can have a meaningful conversation with someone who is struggling with life. R U OK? contributes to suicide prevention efforts by encouraging people to invest more time in their personal relationships and building the capacity of informal support networks – friends, family and colleagues – to be alert to those around them, have a conversation if they identify signs of distress or difficulty and connect someone to appropriate support, long before they’re in crisis1.
When should you ask someone if they are OK?
If someone you know seems sad, agitated or withdrawn, or they are behaving in ways that are out of character, they may be struggling with their mental health or, in extreme cases, having suicidal feelings. If you are worried about someone, it is better to follow your gut instincts and ask them how they are rather than to ignore the signs and leave them to deal with their problems alone.
The importance of letting someone who is struggling know that they are not alone cannot be stressed enough.
Simply starting a conversation like this could be the vital step that encourages a friend, family member or work colleague to speak about their problems – big or small.
If you want to help someone, be sure to make enough time to have a deep conversation with them. You also need to feel ready to support them – you must be prepared for them to say that they are struggling and to open up about things that may be hard to hear. It might not be an easy conversation and if you do not feel ready for this, or you are not sure you are the right person to help them, try to think of someone else that they trust who could have this conversation with them.
It is extremely important that somebody asks them how they are, even if you feel you are not the right person to do this.
How do you ask someone how they are?
R U OK? recommends four steps to help someone struggling with their mental health2:
1. Ask R U OK?
Approach the situations with a relaxed, friendly and concerned manner. Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?” Mention specific things that you have noticed that also concerns you like “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
2. Listen with an open mind
If they decide they want to talk to you, listen without judging them and take them seriously. Do not interrupt or rush them. Instead, encourage them to tell you how they are feeling and really listen to what they have to say.
Let them know you are supportive and that you care about what they are saying.
3. Encourage action
Ask them if there is anything you can do to help or support them, or anything they can do themselves to feel better.
If you feel they are at risk, or they have been feeling low for more than two weeks, suggest that they could see a health professional. Encourage them to see this as a positive step.
4. Check in
Remember to check on them regularly after your conversation. Let them know you have been thinking of them and ask how they are.
Being there for them and letting them know you care can make all the difference to someone who is struggling with their mental health.
Get involved with R U OK? Day – I think we can get rid of this section all together
If your business would like to get involved with R U OK? Day, there are resources available from R U OK? that will help you.
Bodycare’s mental health training programs aim to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and encourage employees to start the conversation around mental health. We provide attendees with the tools to have a ‘difficult conversation’ and educate participants on the signs and symptoms on mental illness. To find out more, click here.
If you need support
If you need professional support, please contact your doctor, local health centre or one of the services listed below. Family and friends can also call upon these services for advice and assistance on how to support someone who is struggling with life.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek assistance by contacting your trusted healthcare professional or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling 000.
Other support services