Today marks the 12th RU OK? Day. The organisation was started by Gavin Larkin, who lost his dad to suicide in 1995. In 2010, Gavin decided to share his story in hopes that he’d protect other families from the pain he endured. Sadly, Gavin died from cancer a year later. However, his vision and message are as clear as ever. Since the pandemic, conversations around mental health are more prevalent than ever. In 2021, the Australian government announced that they were investing $58.8 million to support the mental health of Australians.
Just over twelve months ago, my uncle Shane took his own life. There were no warning signs, social withdrawals or change in mood. He had a very successful career in journalism, a beautiful family, and was lucky enough to recently retire.
We will never know “why”? And can only hope that Shane has found peace.
RU OK Day? Is a fantastic initiative to encourage a conversation around mental health. And, from this conversation,
Put YOU first!
Firstly, make sure YOU are doing okay before you try and help someone else that you are worried/ concerned about.
I always think to myself, when you’re on an aircraft and the flight attendant is going through the take-off demonstration, what does she/he tell you? They say, “in an emergency situation put your own life jacket and oxygen on first, then you can assist others”.
It’s essential that your own mental health and wellbeing is 100% before you reach out and help someone that could possibly be in a seriously unwell circumstance.
If you’re not a health professional, know when to refer this on to someone that is.
Ensure you’re relaxed and ready before you have a conversation with another person. Perhaps a cup of tea in hand whilst sitting calmly on the couch is a great way to settle the mood. Start by asking the person a general question that is open-ended, warm and friendly. Questions such as, “How’s your week going?” or “How are you doing today?” will help guide the conversation. Don’t push the person to say more than they want to reveal. Depending on the person, they might choose to reveal confidential information or might not want to talk at all. Be ready for any answer and a short or long conversation.
Listening without interruption and having an open mind is a great way to build trust and rapport. Pay attention, ask questions and check in with the person; to fully understand what’s happening. Take what they say seriously and don’t rush the conversation. Acknowledge what they are saying without judgment, allowing them time for reflection.
Encourage them to open up more by asking follow-up questions such as, “How did that make you feel?” and, “How is that impacting you now?” Listen and provide support, but don’t offer your advice; unless they ask for it! Remind the person that you’re there for them and happy to listen to them in the future, with trust.
Ask the person how you can support them (within your boundaries). It might be something as simple as having another conversation or helping them find the support they need via a trusted referral to a health professional. If they need professional support, figure out what resources would benefit them and provide them with a few options. Ask for their consent to share their situation with others (health professionals etc) and if they agree, be mindful of who you share their story with. If they disagree and you’re worried about their situation–speak to Beyond Blue or Lifeline for advice on what steps to take.
Check in after a few days and ask how they’re coping and if they need more support. See if they want to meet up and find a place where they’ll feel comfortable or if they want to chat over the phone. If they need more support, offer to help them find the resources they need. It’s critical that you do not take on this issue yourself,
A simple conversation can change someone’s life. If you know someone who needs a chat and you’re emotionally and physically available, reach out to them; you never know the impact you can have on others. For more information about RU OK? Day, visit https://www.ruok.org.au/.
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