In our current climate, you will be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been touched, or doesn’t know someone who has, by mental illness. It affects people of all ages, demographics, genders, nationalities and cultures. It has no barriers and is a silent killer. We live in a world of amazing modern medicine that can cure us of some of the most fatal physical diseases, however, the true killer that has bared its fangs is the one that comes from within. In a world of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter (the list could go on…) it is becoming easier and easier to start feeling a bit buried under in the pressures of ‘self-promotion’.
Unfortunately, as a society we are still trying to overcome the stigma around mental illness. Some may find it hard to express the way they are feeling because it is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness or is discredited as not ‘a real illness’.
If you are one of the lucky ones who has avoided a mental illness, sometimes it can be hard to empathize with someone who is really struggling. It is vitally important to never discredit the way someone is feeling because it is a feeling you might not have felt yourself. RU OK Day, this Thursday 13th of September, is the perfect day to check in with your mates, your family, your son, your daughter, your dad or your mum, your neighbour, your colleague or the guy you sit next to on the bus to work.
If you have noticed someone around you becoming more irritable, more withdrawn or is less interested in the things they used to love, maybe it is time you had a conversation that could change a life and ask ‘are you okay?’.
At Arrive, we have been wondering about how we can help. Ruokay.org.au has some great resources if you are struggling or if you are planning on asking a friend if they are okay which we have listed below…
Getting Ready to Ask…
The first step is to ask yourself: Am I ready?
- Am I in a good headspace?
- Am I willing to genuinely listen?
- Can I give as much time as needed?
The second step: Am I prepared?
- Do I understand that if I ask how someone’s going, the answer could be: “No, I’m not”?
- Do I understand that you can’t ‘fix’ someone’s problems?
- Do I accept that they might not be ready to talk? Or they might not want to talk to me?
The third step: Have I picked my moment?
- Have I chosen somewhere relatively private and comfy?
- Have I figured out a time that will be good for them to chat?
- Have I made sure I have enough time to chat properly?
How to Ask
If you feel the aforementioned criteria have been met, you can now:
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?”
2. Listen Without Judgement
- 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?”
- Ask: “How would you like me to support you?”
- Ask: “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.
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.
Worried Someone Is Suicidal?
Contact Lifeline for crisis support. If life is in danger, call 000
For more information about this great cause, visit ruok.org.au.