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R U Okay Day - How you can help someone in distress

R U Okay Day: How you can help someone in distress

R U Okay? is a non-profit organisation dedicated to suicide prevention. They work collaboratively with experts in suicide prevention and mental illness, as well as government departments, corporate leaders, teachers, universities, students and community groups.

R U OK? Day is a national day of action to encourage Australians to connect with people in the community they may have concerns about, encouraging them to seek further help and to follow up to ensure support is being provided. Unfortunately, many people don’t seek help because they don’t think it’s possible their life will improve. They may also fear social rejection, ridicule, discrimination and judgement. Our role in suicide prevention starts with reducing the stigma so people feel less afraid to reach out.

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1. Ask: Are you okay?

Be relaxed, warm and concerned. Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?”

Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. Is everything okay?”

If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them. Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them.

2. Listen attentively without judgement

Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them. If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence. Show that you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly. Sometimes just the act of having someone listen non-judgementally can mean everything.

3. Encourage Action

Trying asking the following:

  • “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
  • “How would you like me to support you?”
  • “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”

If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. Their GP is the best person to start with. Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times. If money is a concern, remind them that there are many community centres who offer free counselling for this exact reason.

4. Check-in

Remember to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner.

You could say: “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going since we last chatted.”

If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference

Do not:

  • Argue or debate about their thoughts of suicide
  • Discuss whether suicide is right or wrong
  • Guilt trip them or tell them they will go to hell if they die by suicide (they are already experiencing tremendous amounts of guilt)
  • Trivialise their problems by telling them others have it worse
  • Say things like “don’t worry”, “you have everything going for you” or “cheer up”
  • Interrupt with stories of your own
  • Attempt to give a diagnosis of a mental illness

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