Something in your gut has told you that your friend, family member, colleague or acquaintance, may not be doing so well – it could be a change in something they are doing, saying, or something that you’re aware of is going on in their life. You could ignore your gut and brush it off, or you could ask R U OK? Asking R U OK can be difficult and confronting but following the right tips will build your confidence in asking an essential question. Asking R U OK meaningfully could make a difference, change a life, or at the bare minimum, show someone you care.
The following tips may help you build confidence and increase your skills in navigating a conversation with someone in your life who may be struggling. You don’t have to be an expert, but following these tips can help break down any fears or concerns acting as a barrier to asking R U OK, while ensuring you provide genuine intent and support to someone who may be struggling.
Preparation – Ask yourself…
- Am I: ready to ask, listen genuinely, provide time?
- In a good headspace?
- Prepared for potential different answers to the question e.g. “no I am not ok”? Do I understand that you can’t ‘fix’ someone’s problems?
- Have I: picked my moment?
- Chosen somewhere relatively private and comfortable?
- Figured out a time that will be good for them to chat?
- Made sure I have enough time to chat properly?
If you answered yes to the above questions, you are ready to start a meaningful conversation. If not, don’t give up, familiarise yourself and increase your awareness by Learning the signs, practicing conversation tips, or seeking support for yourself first. Reading this puts you already on the right track to appropriate preparation and awareness!
Asking 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?”
2. Be prepared if….
- They do not want to talk. Do not criticise them – Tell them you are 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?”
This year’s message is “There is more to say after R U OK?”. So, what next?
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
Encourage them to act:
- Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
- “How would you like me to support you?”
- “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 may be too big for yourself, family or 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. (https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp)
- Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they are 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.
This article was adapted from information off the R U OK website. For more information or advice please visit ruok.org.au. If you are worried someone might be suicidal, contact Lifeline for crisis support. If life is in danger call 000.