How to Say you’re Not Okay
You’ve been asked “are you okay” and the answer is “no”
It’s okay to not be okay. But sometimes it’s hard to know how to let someone in, or how to verbalise the very personal experience that is mental health. This can be especially difficult given the frequency in each day that we tend to get asked “how are you?” and give the obligatory “good thanks, yourself?” response. The first thing to do is ask yourself how comfortable you are with the person who asked you ‘are you okay?’. Do you feel safe with this person, close enough to share your experience?
No – “Thank you for asking. I’m not doing great at the moment, but I don’t want to talk more about it now”
Yes – “Thank you for asking. I’m not doing great.”
How are you feeling
How are you really feeling? Think through some emotion labels and how these came to be. Is there a specific experience that you want to talk about, or maybe you just want to share your mood. Remember be specific. It can also help to let someone know how long you have felt this way.
How are you coping and what support do you need?
Now is the time to reflect on what support you currently need. You can let the other person know if you already are seeing someone about it and simply need some company or a listening ear. Or maybe you haven’t had a chance yet to let anyone in on your experience. Let the individual know how they can help specifically. Take this time also to reflect on whether professional help is needed if not already engaged.
Sometimes even those with the best intentions will not respond in a helpful way. Don’t take unhelpful responses personally, not everyone will respond in the way you need. Their response doesn’t make your experience or needs any less valid. The moment may just not have been right, or maybe they themselves are struggling. It is important to make sure if you don’t get the right response the first time, let someone else know you’re not okay. Don’t stop asking for support until you get the help you need.
Where to get professional help
Mental Health Lines
- Lifeline: 13 11 14 24/7 telephone counselling service
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
- MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
- Emergency: 000
- Or visit: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/mental-health-helplines
- General Practitioner. It is always a great first stop if you want to get help to speak to your GP.
- Psychologist or Counsellor or Psychiatrist.
- Employee Assistance Programs. These are programs often offered through your workplace that offer short-term counselling.
Signs its Time to Ask R U OK?
Ultimately trust your gut and your knowledge of the individual. If you feel something is not right with someone you know, check in on them. Below are some key signs and events that signal it might be time to check in on a friend:
- Confused or irrational
- Moody or experiencing mood swings
- Unable to switch off
- Concerned they’re a burden, or withdrawing from interactions (work and personal)
- Changes in their online presence
- Losing interest in what they previously loved
- Lonely or lacking self-esteem
- Concerned they’re trapped or in pain
- Lack of interest in appearance and hygiene
- Unable to concentrate
- Making reckless decisions
- Experiencing issues with relationships, health, work, finances or grief.
If you yourself are experiencing these signs, it might be time to let someone else know you’re not okay.
How to Ask R U OK and to Respond to those who Aren’t Okay
Firstly, check in with yourself to check that you’re in the right headspace to be able to lend support to another? If you’re not that’s fine, look out for yourself first, and try identify someone else in their support network who you can reach out to and to ask for them to provide the person support.
Before having the conversation make sure the moment and environment is right to provide the person opportunity to speak. This means making sure its private, comfy, and that there is enough time to have the conversation.
Ask R U OK? It doesn’t have to be complex, simply asking in a friendly, relaxed and concerned tone “how are you going” can start the conversation. If there was any signs you noticed that flagged needing to check in you might also like to express your specific concern to let them know it is okay to open up. Sometimes the individual may not want to discuss this, don’t push them, it is ultimately their own choice. Avoid confrontation and simply reassure them of your concern, and ask them to talk to you when they are comfortable, or ask if there’s someone else they want to talk to instead.
Listen and be open minded. This isn’t the time to interrupt the conversation, to judge, or to offer advice. Sit in the silence if they need time responding, and ask questions about how the situation they are going through is making them feel. Repeat back key emotions and experiences expressed to check you have understood them correctly.
After listening and understanding the persons experience, the next step can be encouraging action. Such as asking how they have previously coped through difficult times, how they would like to be supported, what they might enjoy doing, or encourage reaching out for professional help.
Check in on the individual after a couple of weeks to see if they’re still struggling. Repeat the above steps.
If you are worried at any stage that the individual may be suicidal contact Lifeline for crisis support or if life is in danger, call 000.