RUOK? How to respond to someone who isn't OK

By Sharon Smith
Thursday, 10 September, 2015



World Suicide Prevention Day prompts people from all walks of life to ask their loved ones what could be a life-saving question: are you ok?
You might think it is hard to ask people it is hard to ask someone if they are ok, but it is a lot harder to tell people that you are not ok. So what should you do if someone says, 'actually I haven't been doing so well lately'? SANE Australia has given us these five tips as a guide.
1. A simple, ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ is a good response. You might follow this up with, ‘Would you like to talk about it?’ to open up the conversation if the time and situation is appropriate. If not, agree on a more suitable time to talk.
2. Sometimes it can help to mention any changes you’ve seen that have caused concern. For example, if someone seems more withdrawn than normal (which can be a symptom of depression) you could say ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve not wanted to come out much lately. Is there something worrying you?’
3. There is great comfort to be given by simply listening and caring. There are often too few opportunities in our busy lives for connections based on these simple kindnesses. Sometimes, too, people find it easier to talk when doing something like going for a walk, rather than sitting across a table from someone.
4. Focus on asking questions rather than trying to provide answers. Giving people a chance to share their experiences and voice their concerns without judgement is of great benefit. It helps people to feel less alone and more hopeful. Remember that responsibility for finding solutions does not lie with you. The best solutions are generally reached by the person themselves.
5. Check whether they are connected to professional support. If someone is thinking about suicide it’s especially important that they know that help is available. Their GP can make a referral to a psychologist, or Lifeline is a good option for telephone and online support 24 hours a day.
Remember the premise of R U OK Day is a conversation could change a life. This simple gesture of compassion can have a profound effect on someone who is going through tough times.
RUOK? While it's great to hear a happy YES reply, it might actually be better to hear a hesitant 'no'. You may be the first person to have ever asked this question. You may have just started someone on the road to getting the help - and hopefully recovery - that they need.
RUOK? Ask it today, ask it tomorrow, ask it next week.

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