How to ask if someone is OK

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So you know how to prepare for the conversation and all about R U OK day, now here’s a guide on how to ask someone how they’re feeling and open up a conversation about their mental health.

  1. Ask

Try “how are you going?” “Are you doing okay?”

Mention specific things like “I noticed you weren’t very chatty yesterday, is everything okay?” “You’ve seemed tired a lot lately, is there anything you want to talk about?”

  1. Listen

Now don’t talk. It’s their turn. Keep encouraging them if they feel stuck. Ask questions like “How are you feeling about that?”. Be understanding, this is very hard for them. Show that you are listening by saying things like “It sounds like you have a lot of pressure on you at the moment, it must get pretty hard sometimes”. Don’t take it personally if they get upset or angry. You’re there for them and you have to acknowledge that times might be tough for them at the moment.

  1. Encourage action

Help them think of things that might help. Make some suggestions or just ask “what can I do to help you through this?” If you have some advice, try suggesting it in a way that focuses on them, rather than talking about someone else’s problems. If you think it’s necessary, recommend a local Headspace centre or other professional. Be positive about them improving but keep in mind it might take some time.

  1. Follow up

Remind yourself to retouch with them in a couple of weeks. If you think it’s necessary, maybe sooner. You could start this conversation like “I’ve been thinking about that chat we had the other week and I just wanted to see how you were going” If they haven’t sought professional help, don’t judge them and try suggesting it again. Offer to go with them if you feel you are up to it. Stay in touch with them and be there for them. Often all they want is someone who will listen.

What to do about denial

Don’t criticise them, they are not ready to talk. Avoid confrontation by letting them know you will be around when they are ready to talk. Make sure they know you are coming from a place of genuine care and that all you want out of it is to make sure they are okay and to help them.

What to do if they feel suicidal

It’s important to take this seriously, don’t become angry at them for this. Explain that these thoughts can be common and they don’t have to act on them. For more advice and support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Servuce on 1300 659 467.

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