Thursday 8th September sees the return of R U OK? Day for 2016, it’s 8th annual outing.
From its inception as a community project, R U OK? aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and prevent suicide, through the simple action of asking someone “Are you OK?”.
With an estimated 65,000 Australians attempting suicide every year, the team behind R U OK? discovered that checking in with a friend, colleague or family member in this way can have a profound effect upon their mental state, and that it plays a role in stopping feelings of isolation and loneliness.
With a message of “a conversation could change a life”, R U OK believes that by creating connections and having meaningful conversations, we can all help prevent suicide.
(Suicide is the biggest killer of all Australians, with men accounting for 75% of all suicide deaths.)
Start a conversation with these 4 steps
To help someone open up, first find a time and place that works for you both, free of distractions or stressful environments.
1. Ask R U OK?
Be relaxed, ask questions like “how are you going?”, “what’s been happening?” or “how are you travelling?”. Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “I’ve noticed that you seem really tired recently” or “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”.
2. Listen without judgement
Take what they say seriously, without interrupting or rush the conversation. If they need time to think, try and sit patiently with the silence. Encourage them to explain, asking leading questions like “how are you feeling about that?” or “how long have you felt that way?”
Show that you’ve listened by checking that you’ve understood. You could say, “It sounds like you’re juggling a few things at the moment and you’re feeling really stretched.” If they get angry or upset, stay calm and don’t take it personally. Let them know you’re asking because you care and acknowledge that times seem tough for them.
3. Encourage action
Help them think about one or two things that can be done to better manage the situation. It might be they take some time out for themselves or do something that’s fun or relaxing. Ask “What can I do to help you get through this?” or “How would you like me to support you?”.
If you’ve found a particular strategy or health service useful, share it with them. You can say something like: “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this… You might find it useful too.” If necessary, encourage them to see a doctor or other professional.
This is particularly important if they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks.
You could say, “It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find right person to talk to.”
Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times, but understand that it may take a bit of time to find the right one. The R U OK website has a helpful resources page to assist https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp
4. Check in
Add a reminder in your calendar or phone to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, check in with them sooner. Say something like, “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. You could ask, “Do you think it would be useful if we looked into finding some professional or other support?”
Understand that sometimes it can take a long time for someone to be ready to see a professional. We can’t rush this or force someone to seek support. Instead, remain optimistic about the benefits of getting help and try not to judge them.
Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.
While R U OK Day is just one day every year, mental health is a year round issue, so don’t forget to check in regularly with a mate.
If you’d like advice or support about mental health issues, the team at Pulse Medical Algester can help. Speak to us today on 07 3272 8543.