R U OK? Day is held annually on the second Thursday in September. The aim of the day is to raise awareness in reminding people to ask family, friends and work colleagues the question “R U OK?” to help those who may be struggling with life. This small initiative can make a difference to someone who may be stressed or overwhelmed.
R U OK? Was founded by Australian Gavin Larken and Janina Nearn in 2009, after Gavin experienced his Father died by suicide in 1995. R U OK? works closely with experts in suicide prevention and mental illness. The tagline was brought about from research that proves that checking in with someone can really make a difference to their mental state. “Getting connected and staying connected is the best thing anyone can do for themselves and for those who may be at risk.” Gavin states.
Supporting one another is something we can all do. All you need to do is invest some time in the people around you. The R U OK? Website has many resources that can assist everyone in how to have a conversation with your family, friends and work colleagues.
If you get a gut feeling that someone you care about is behaving out of the ordinary, perhaps they are agitated, withdrawn, or just not themselves, trust your instinct and act on it. It’s as simple as asking them if they are ok. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to ask. The R U OK? Website has some excellent tips on how to ask the question:
1. Ask R U OK? Before you approach the person, make sure that you are in a relaxed and friendly mood, and show concern in your approach. It is helpful to ask questions such as “What’s been happening for you?” or “How are you going?”. It is also recommended that you mention specific things such as what makes you concerned about them. For example, “you seem withdrawn lately, how are you going?”
Push Back: If you get a push back from the person, or they do not wish to talk, don’t criticize them. Tell them you are still concerned and that you care about them. You could say “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “is there someone else you would rather talk to?”. Avoid confrontation with the person as that could make the situation more stressful.
2. Listen without Judgement: Do not interrupt the person when they are talking and do take what they are saying seriously. Acknowledge that things seem tough for them and do not judge their experience. Ask them questions so that they are encouraged to share how they feel. You could ask questions such as “How are you feeling about that situation?” or “How long have you felt this way?”. Show them that you have listened by paraphrasing what they have said and ask them if this correct.
3. Encourage Action: You could ask things to prompt them in how to find a solution. Questions such as
a. “What have you done in the past to manage a similar situation?”
b. “How would you like me to support you?”
c. “What’s something you could do right now that you would love, and is enjoyable and relaxing for you?”
d. “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this…. you might find it useful too?”
If they have been feeling really down for a while, it is a good idea to encourage them to see a professional. Tell them you could assist them in helping the right person. Be positive when discussing the role of professionals in getting through tough times.
4. Check in: After your conversation, it is a good idea to check in with the person. You could put a reminder in your diary to call them. Depending on the severity of the situation, follow up accordingly. Ask them if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them, they may just need someone to listen to them for the moment. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern make a huge difference.
In a 12-month period, it is estimated that 65, 000 Australians make a suicide attempt with an estimated 2320 people committing suicide each year. This is why the R U OK? Initiative is such an important one.
Even if you ask the question and the person is ok, it is of value that they know you care enough to ask them how they are going.
As we embark on another year of R U OK? Day, let’s all do our part to connect with the people around us to be able to better support anyone struggling with life. Sometimes conversations can be too big for friends and family to take on alone. If you need professional assistance, please refer to the below help lines:
Lifeline – 131114
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800551800
Grief Line – 1200 845 745
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636