The second Thursday in September marks R U OK? Day (13th September 2012), a day dedicated to inspiring all people of all backgrounds to regularly ask each other ‘Are you ok?’ On average, more than 2,200 Australians suicide each year and chances are most of us know someone who has. Sadly, suicide is the biggest killer of Australians aged 15 to 34 years, with men accounting for 75 per cent of all suicide deaths. R U OK? Day aims to inspire all Australians to take responsibility for people in their lives who may be struggling and need an opportunity to say ‘I’m not ok’ to a friend or family member. In the time it takes to have a coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life.
Starting the conversation
Regularly connecting with family, friends and peers can help build a stronger and more resilient community. You don’t need to be an expert to support someone you care about who is going through a tough time, you just need to be there for them. When we go through difficult times, it very common to feel alone, but having someone admit that they’re not ok is the first step to getting support. Stop little problems becoming big problems by taking these four important steps todays:
- Ask R U OK? Start a general conversation with someone, preferably somewhere quiet. It could be as simple as “How are you going?” or more personal such as “You don’t seem like yourself and I’m wondering are you ok?”. Build trust with good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
- Listen without judgement: Use open-ended, caring questions to guide the conversation such as “How has that made you feel?”. Give them time to reply and don’t rush to solve the problems for them. Instead, help them to understand that solutions are available when they are ready to start exploring them.
- Encourage action: Summarise the key issues they have identified and ask them what they plan to do. Encourage them to take an initial step such as seeing a local doctor or counsellor.
- Follow-up: Give them a call in a few days or even a week and ask if they have managed to take the first step and see someone. If they did and didn’t find the experience usual, urge them to try a different professional because there is someone out there that can help them.
Who will you ask?