Asking such a simple question might seem just that – simple. But it has the ability to change, and save, lives.
By asking the ever-important question ‘Are you okay?’ to the people around you, listening, and letting them know you care is important. There is power in asking this, and it is no small task. But don’t let that scare you.
R U OK?’s vision is a world where we’re all supported and protected from suicide. Connecting and communicating openly, discussing the highs and lows of life without shame or stigma are all included in the world R U OK? is helping us move toward.
Dr Thomas Joiner, an academic from the United States told R U OK? that the three forces at play in someone at risk are:
‘The first force is the person thinks they’re a burden on others; the second is that they can withstand a high degree of pain; and the third is they don’t feel connected to others.’
The lack of connection and belonging is something that this Australian charity is committed to changing.
If you’ve got a feeling that your mate’s not okay, R U OK? has some tips to help. It’s important to trust your gut instinct. It can be daunting and a little frightening asking the question, especially when you’re not sure how your friend will respond.
1. Ask yourself if you are ready. Are you in a good headspace? Are you ready to listen? Can you give as much time as needed? Are you in a good space, and is it private?
2. Are you prepared if the answer is ‘no’? Understand that you may not be able to ‘fix’ what’s getting them down and that they may not be ready or willing to talk.
3. Starting the conversation by asking questions such as ‘What’s been happening lately?’ and ‘You seem less chatty lately, is everything okay?’ show concern and care.
4. If they push back, don’t criticise them. Let them know you’re concerned and that you’re willing to listen if they ever need.
5. Don’t interrupt them, don’t judge them or their experiences, allow them to think and sit in silence if they want. Encourage them to expand on topics by asking ‘How do you feel about that?’ or ‘How long have you been feeling this way?’
6. Encourage them to take action.
7. Understand that some conversations are too big for family or friends. If you’re worried, call any of the numbers listed at the end of this article.
8. Check in with them regularly. Give them a call and let them know you’re thinking of them. Keep in touch and let them know you care. It could make a huge change.
By asking ‘Are you okay?’ it assists in removing the stigma of mental illness, and moving us all toward a world where we all feel connected and supported.
So. Are you okay?
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
BeyondBlue: 1300 22 4636
MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78
Q Life: 1800 184 527 (Support for queer people and families)
Headspace: 1800 650 890
Header image via R U OK's Facebook page.