R U OK? – Keep the Conversation Going
Content Warning: This blog discusses sensitive mental health topics. Reader discretion is advised, and please seek professional help or support if needed. Resources can be found below.
After the success of our 2023 RU OK? Day event on Sept 14th, we wanted to continue the conversation. R U OK isn’t limited to a single day of awareness; it’s a year-round commitment to checking in on your friends and family.
Conversations are powerful. A simple dialogue can save lives. Let’s harness the strength of words and reach out to those around us who may be struggling. However, reaching out can be a hard process to start. To help, here’s a useful guide on starting these vital conversations.
Before You Start
Here are some key points to consider before starting the conversation:
- Prepare Yourself: Ensure you’re in the right mental space, and set aside dedicated time for the conversation. Are you ready to genuinely listen? Do you have your own energy levels balanced?
- Expect the Unexpected: Understand that these conversations can be unpredictable and emotional. It may be difficult for someone to open up, and you might not always have the answers. Remember that talking about it is support in itself.
- Choose the Right Setting: Find a private and comfortable place for the conversation.
- Timing Matters; It’s better to schedule a suitable time instead of bringing up the issue abruptly, as that may be very confronting. Lightly addressing concerns beforehand is helpful, to help both of you prepare.
When you’ve considered the above and are ready to have a conversation, there are a few ways you can go about asking. Below are some conversation starters that you might find useful.
R U OK? A Few Ways to Start Your Conversation
- “How are you going?”
- “What’s been happening?”
- “Has something happened? You don’t seem yourself lately.”
When asking, be calm and open. Mentioning an observation directing your concerns can make it easier to address the conversation. Perhaps they’ve been tired, less social or unlike themselves. Show them you’ve noticed a change – and that you care. They may have not even seen their own changes.
A very important step:
- Give them time to speak, don’t rush the conversation.
- Keep calm and patient, and don’t take feelings personally; they may become embarrassed, upset or angry – addressing one’s feelings is a confronting and personal time.
- Take their words seriously and address your concerns when there’s room to speak. Sometimes, all someone needs is to have someone listen.
Think of a crisis as a knotted ball of yarn— many small things can contribute to that knot and make it bigger until it seems frustratingly unsalvageable. It’s too much to tackle at once, but a few gestures can get to untangling things.
Small steps are steps. Lightening the load may prevent a spiral later down the road. Here are some questions to help ease the burden:
If you aren’t quite sure how to encourage action, it is okay to ask them what they may need. Good examples of actions to take are:
- Talking to a supportive family member or a trusted friend.
- Seeking help from a local doctor or appropriate health professional.
- Finding a support group.
Remind them that there is nothing wrong with needing help. It can be hard for some to admit they need support – gentle words of support go a long way.
It’s important to remember that your conversation doesn’t end after your initial conversation.
Always make sure to follow up, and ask them later how are they going with their situation. You can ask “Have they found a better way to manage things?”
Be patient, these steps take time, and it can take some time to be ready to seek help. Reinforcing healthy conversations and reaching out, discussing the benefits of seeking professional help, and keeping the conversation open encourages others and helps them feel safe on their mental health journey.
For help on campus at UNE, the team at Advocacy and Welfare are here to help. For mental health support, CAPS is a service provided by UNE who offer professional support to students. Always reach out if you’re in need of help.