4 Steps to Say, “R U OK?”
“A conversation could save a life.” – RUOK.org
Has someone ever asked, “are you doing okay?” at just the right moment? Between friends, family, co-workers, and a friendly cashier at our local shoppe, we are all connected to each other in one way or another. Seeing who’s struggling though, isn’t always easy. That’s why this Australian non-profit suicide prevention organization is encouraging each of us to ask, “R U OK?”
As you may have heard, Thursday, 10 September, was R U OK?Day. This is an initiative of R U OK? a national charity dedicated to inspiring all of us to have regular, meaningful conversations to support anyone struggling with life’s ups and downs.
Check out these 4 impactful steps to begin having meaningful conversations with the people in your circles. Before you start, we encourage you to also do a self-check to ensure that (1) you are ready and have time to listen, (2) understand that you can’t ‘fix’ someone’s problems, and (3) accept that they might not be ready to talk.
1. Ask 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?”
- If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them.
- Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them.
- Avoid confrontation.
- You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”
2. 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
3. Encourage action
- Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?” or Ask: “How would you like me to support you?”
- 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 are too big for family and 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.
4. Check in
- Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re 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.
You can learn more through the conversation guide or at www.ruok.org.au. If you or someone you know need immediate support Lifeline are available 24/7 on 13 11 14 and other supports and services can be found at www.ruok.org.au/findhelp. If someone’s life is in danger, call 000.