Start a conversation this R U OK? Day
R U OK?’s vision is a world where we’re all connected and protected from suicide.
With many out of work, separated from family or struggling to deal with the day-to-day changes the pandemic has thrust upon us, it’s never been more important to check in on your friends, family, neighbours or co-workers.
And that’s exactly why R U OK? Day has never been more important.
Today Australians are being encouraged to learn more about what they can do to help a friend or loved one who is struggling with their emotional or mental health.
R U OK? Day is on September 10, and acts as a reminder that taking the time to ask ‘Are you okay?’ can make a big difference. Starting these conversations and creating space for others to feel heard and supported is a vital part of R U OK?’s vision, so make a bit of time this R U OK? Day to check in with someone close to you.
Founder Gavin Larkin said the day – which this year coincides with World Suicide Prevention Day – is a chance to “think about someone other than yourself” by asking the seemingly simple question, are you okay?
“Sometimes you might feel a little uncomfortable or awkward if someone says they’re not okay,” R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton said.
Here are some conversational tips to get you started:
- Ask R U OK? – Help the person you’re talking to open up by asking questions like ‘How are you going?’ or ‘What’s been happening?’
- Listen without judgement – Don’t judge their experiences or reactions, but acknowledge that things seem tough for them.
- Encourage action – Ask ‘What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?’
- Check in – Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.
- Read the R U OK? Conversation Guide here
How conversations can make a difference
Did you know?
- Life’s challenges can leave people feeling helpless, hopeless, afraid, disconnected and at genuine risk
- Early-intervention and open communication can reduce stigma, break down barriers and build trust which in turn promotes long-term, positive behavioural change that saves lives now and into the future
- A simple way to provide support is by genuinely asking “Are you OK?” and being prepared to have regular meaningful conversations to help someone who might be struggling to feel supported when confronted with challenges in life whether at home, work, school or in sport
The signs it might be time to start an R U OK? conversation
It won’t always be obvious when someone’s not doing so well but these are changes you can look out for that might signal they need some extra support.
What are they SAYING?
Do they sound:
- Confused or irrational
- Unable to switch off
- Concerned about the future
- Concerned they’re a burden
- Lonely or lacking self-esteem
- Concerned they’re trapped or in pain
What are they DOING?
- Experiencing mood swings
- Dismissive or defensive
- Becoming withdrawn
- Changing their online behaviour
- Behaving recklessly
- Unable to concentrate
- Losing interest in what they used to love
- Less interested in their appearance and personal hygiene
- Changing their sleep patterns
- Changing their appearance
What’s going on in their LIFE?
Have they experienced:
- A traumatic incident
- A change in work circumstances or job responsibilities
- Issues at school
- Increased pressure from relocation or changed living arrangements
- Conflict at work or at home
- Relationship issues
- Becoming a parent
- Major health issues or an injury
- Constant stress
- Financial difficulty
- Loss of someone or something they care about
Pick your moment
- Have you chosen somewhere relatively private and informal?
- What time will be good for them to chat? Ideally try and put aside 30 minutes so the conversation isn’t rushed
- You might find that during breaks, one-on-one catch ups or before/after shifts are good times to chat
- If they can’t talk when you approach them, suggest another time to have a conversation
- It might be more comfortable for the person to be side-by-side with you (e.g. walking together or driving rather than face-to-face).
Starting a conversation
- Be relaxed
- Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” Or “What’s been happening?” Or “I’ve noticed that you’re not quite yourself lately. How are you travelling?”
- Make an observation. Mention specific things that have made you concerned about them, like “I’ve noticed that you seem really tired recently” or “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”
Or say something like:
- “I’ve noticed a few changes in what you’ve been saying/doing. How are things for you at the moment?”
- “I know there’s been some big life changes for you recently. How are you going with that?”
- “You don’t seem yourself lately – want to talk about it?”
- “Just checking in to see how you’re going?”
- “With everything that’s going on, you’ve been on my mind lately, how are you?”
- “You’ve got a lot going on right now. How are you doing?”
What if they don’t want to talk to me?
- Try not to take it personally if they don’t want to talk. They might not be ready to talk or it might take them time to realise that you genuinely care
- Respect their decision not to talk; don’t force them into it or criticise them
- Focus on some things they might be comfortable talking about like, “I know you’ve had trouble sleeping and concentrating lately. Can we talk about that?”
- Suggest they talk to someone they trust, like a family member or friend. You could say, “You can always call me if you ever want to chat. But is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”
- Ask if you can check in with them again soon.
Some conversations can become too big for family and friends. If you’re worried about someone and feel urgent professional support is needed, contact your local doctor or the agencies listed on the R U OK? website.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please seek assistance by contacting your trusted healthcare professional or calling Lifeline on 13 11 14.
If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, seek immediate assistance by calling Triple Zero (000).
Useful contacts for someone who’s not OK
Encourage them to contact one of these Australian crisis lines and professionals:
- Beyond Blue (24/7): 1300 224 636 – beyondblue.org.au
- Lifeline (24/7 ): 13 11 14 – lifeline.org.au
- Suicide Call Back Service (24/7): 1300 659 467 – suicidecallbackservice.org.au
- Kids Helpline (24/7): 1800 55 1800 – kidshelpline.com.au
- MensLine (24/7): 1300 78 99 78 – mensline.org.au
- More contacts: ruok.org.au/findhelp
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