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RUOK?Day: Tips for successful deep & meaningfuls

What if you noticed some concerning changes in someone you cared about—what would you do? All too often, we feel too uncomfortable or awkward to ask the important questions or we might feel out of our depth to deal with the answers.

This year, while many of us are isolated from our family, friends and colleagues, it is even more important that we overcome our awkwardness and discomfort with conversations about mental health and reach out by whatever means we can. If you are not able to see someone in person, find other ways to connect eg. video call or phone.

RUOK?Day on September 10th is a mental health campaign that raises awareness of the benefits of having these meaningful conversations and assists people to initiate these important talks by providing clear guidelines on how to approach them most effectively.

RUOK?Day isn’t just about starting the conversation, it’s also about preparing yourself for it and knowing how to respond when the answer is, “No, I’m not okay.”

These simple steps will empower you to approach your friends, family or colleagues who may need someone to lean on:

Plan your approach

Think about when it is the best time for you and for the other person to have a serious conversation. Consider your mindset, whether you need to organise support for yourself, how much time you have, and the best place to sit and talk.

Be mindful of how you stay something, not just what you say

Approach someone with an open mind, a nonjudgmental stance and a relaxed and calm demeanour. Be genuine and direct.

Avoid going straight into fix-it mode

Don’t give unsolicited advice. Ask them to tell you what would be most helpful. Do they want you to just listen, to help them solve a problem, or to help them link in with supports (or perhaps all three). If they are not ready to talk, be respectful and let them know you care about them and will check in another time.

Reduce stigma about seeking professional help

Stigma often stops people from seeking appropriate support. If you have had positive interactions with a psychologist or other mental health professional, it can be useful to share your experience. You can also provide encouragement and support by giving them practical assistance to link in e.g. dial the phone number of their GP and sit with them while they make an appointment, or help them search for a psychologist in their area.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Never say that your conversations will be completely confidential. If you fear for their safety, you have to act in their best interest. If someone expresses suicidal thoughts or is harming themselves in some way that puts their health or others at risk, you may have to tell someone (like their significant other) or call someone (like Lifeline or 000) for help even if they don’t want you to.

Check out the RUOK? website for more tips and resources and ways you can get involved!

Dr. Lillian Nejad is a clinical psychologist and author.


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