It can be difficult to notice changes in our friends, colleagues and loved ones at the moment.
Typically, we would be well-placed to notice small changes that might suggest someone isn’t coping or needs extra support. For instance, a colleague or friend may appear more tired, less talkative, or not as sociable as usual, the key phrase being ‘than usual’. However, between working from home, the closure of borders, as well as fewer social ‘touchpoints’ available to us, we are all navigating how best to engage and support one another from afar.
Thankfully, this year’s RUOK? Day (September 10, 2020) campaign addresses this very issue – it’s about going beyond the niceties, to ensure we’re checking in with others in a truly meaningful, helpful manner.
5 Steps to Open Up a Conversation on Mental Health
- Ensure you are in a good headspace, find a time where you are less likely to be distracted, or have pressures of your own to handle, leaving you prepared to take some time to listen.
- Begin the conversation by simply asking “are you ok?” By being relaxed and inviting, the conversation should flow. You might need to offer an observation such as “I’ve noticed that you seem really tired recently” or “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
- Make sure you’re actively listening. Take what they say seriously and try not to interrupt or rush the conversation. If they need time to think, try and sit patiently with the silence and encourage them to explain their thoughts and feelings to help you understand. They might get agitated or upset that you’re asking. That’s ok, too. Just stay calm and don’t take it personally. Reiterate that you’re asking them how they are because you’re concerned.
- Encourage them with an action. Ask open ended questions such as “Where do you think we can go from here?” or “What would be a good first step we can take?” You might even be able to support them personally by asking “What do you need from me?” or “How can I help?” If you can’t help personally, brainstorm other feasible options with them, such as talking to family, a trusted friend, their GP or a professional via their Employee Assistance Program.
- Make a plan to follow up. Checking in a few days after your initial conversation is the best way to show your support. Ask them if they’ve found any solutions or other support. If they haven’t done anything, keep encouraging them and remind them you’re there if they need a chat.
The key to these conversations is establishing an environment where people feel comfortable talking. RUOK? is more than just a question and it’s more than just one answer. Focus on getting the story told, because feeling heard and understood is sometimes all it takes.
We’re with you – all the way
For more information on having the conversation, visit R U OK? Beyond Blue have some helpful tips in the event someone unexpectedly confides in you and suggestions for looking after yourself if you’re supporting someone with anxiety or depression.
Useful contacts for someone who is not OK
Encourage them to call these Australian crisis lines and professionals:
Lifeline (24/7) 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service (24/7) 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue (24/7) 1300 224 636
SANE Australia 1800 18 SANE (7263)