R U OK? Day call to action - Ask R U OK? No qualifications needed
R U Ok? Day
No seriously, R U Ok?
How to support those who mightn’t be.
Published 30 August

To commemorate R U OK? Day on Thursday 8 September, our friends at Livin’ have shared some hot tips on how to identify and support a family member, friend or colleague who may not be feeling 100%. You don’t have to be qualified to make a difference. A simple conversation could just change a life.

One. Spot the signs:

  • Increased alcohol and/or drug use, anger, aggression, irritability, crying, sadness, nervousness, anxiety
  • Disrupted sleep, aches, and pains, declining physical health, looking and feeling run down
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity, ‘wild’ behaviour
  • Challenging life events (separation and divorce, parenting difficulties, exam stress, work-related pressures, job insecurity, physical illness, social isolation, and loneliness)

The list could go on! Warning signs can appear in all shapes and sizes. But always trust your instincts! Look out for any change in behaviour or someone acting out of character.

 

Two. A little bit of prep and kickstarting the conversation:

As the saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance. What are the environments/locations that may be less confrontational to kickstart a conversation? Over a coffee? Over a beer? While exercising?

Remind yourself to relax. Take a deep breath. Role model calm and composed.

Plan for the conversation before acting. Have a loose script in mind. What are the observable behaviour changes you might comment on?

“Hey *insert name*, you seem a bit off at the moment, how are you going? No seriously, how are you really going?”


If you’re going to genuinely ask someone how they are doing, you need to be prepared for a range of responses including, “Not OK”.

Keep it simple. Take the pressure off yourself to have all the answers. You can stumble and fumble your way through this stuff, there’s no perfect thing to say to someone who mightn’t be travelling so well.

Remind yourself to LISTEN first. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.
Limit throwing out advice or solutions too soon, even if a solution seems obvious. Work with them to come up with solutions together.

Three. Let them know about support options:

Self-support – encourage good self-care practices. “What have you done in the past to feel better about yourself? Alright, let’s start doing some of this stuff again.”

Don’t underestimate the power of social support. “How can I best support you right now?” Even if they don’t seem receptive to your support, simply being there for them can be extremely valuable. Each time you offer your support, it can be that metaphorical nudge they might need towards getting help.

Explore referral options together and explicitly ask what you can do to best support them. “I’m aware of some good support options, how can I best help you connect with someone? Let’s do this together.”

1. Friends and family – social support
2. Lifeline – 13 11 14 – free crisis support 24/7
3. Trusted GP for a chat – ask about a Mental Health Care/ Treatment Plan and referral to a mental health professional

Four. Check-in, again and again.

Gently nudge, don’t nag.
Follow up your conversation to show that you genuinely care (remember the power of social support) and to determine whether they are feeling any better. If they aren’t, re-explore some of the support options outlined in Step 3.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to improved mental health and well-being, so trying a few different things is important.

Five. When looking to support someone else, it’s important to make sure you’re looking after yourself. ‘It’s hard to pour from an empty cup’.

Consider, are you feeling capable of providing support? Do you have time to listen? Have you got your own self-care and support in place? Practice self-care regularly to help YOU, but also so you can better help others.

 

If you’re finding life tough or need some extra support, it can help to talk about how you’re feeling with someone you trust. Family and friends can also call upon these services for advice and assistance on how to support someone who is struggling with life. View our directory of national helplines and services at ruok.org.au/findhelp
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Published on 15 August, 2022