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R U OK?: Conversation tips when someone is having a hard time

Four steps to follow to check on someone
Four steps to follow to check on someone.

Supplied: "R U OK" campaign

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"R U OK?" day, which is a national suicide prevention initiative, is commemorated around Australia in September. Take a look at the following conversation tips if you find that you need to support someone who is not feeling well.

The "R U OK" campaign recommends following four steps and asking the following questions to have a conversation with someone who is not feeling too good.

1. Ask R U OK?

You can start by asking someone if they are OK and tell them you are here to listen. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Are you OK? (R U OK? is the short form and used in informal communication)
  • Is everything OK?
  • You feeling OK?
  • How you going?/How are things?
  • How are you travelling these days?
  • What's been happening?

2. Listen with an open mind

Be prepared to listen patiently and encourage them to explain what's bothering them. Take what someone is saying seriously and listen with an open mind. You can say:

  • I'm worried about you.
  • I'm concerned about you.
  • Why don't you start from the beginning?
  • How are you feeling about this/that?

If you'd like to show that you are listening and understanding what the person is saying, you can say:

  • It sounds like you're going through a stressful time.
  • It sounds like you're stretched.
  • It looks like you're juggling a couple of things at the moment.

3. Encourage action

Try and encourage the person to take action. You can say:

  • Where do you think we can go from here?
  • How can I help you?
  • How can I support you?
  • What can I do to help you get through this?
  • What's a good first step we can take?

You can also share your own experience by saying:

  • This really helps me...
  • When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this... You might find it useful.

If you think the person could do with some professional help, you can say:

  • Would you like to get some professional help?
  • Have you thought about seeing the doctor?
  • It might be useful to talk to someone who can support you.

4. Check in

Make a time to check in with them after a couple of days or weeks. You can say:

  • How've you been since we last spoke?
  • How are things now?
  • I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted.

If they have sought professional help, you can say:

  • How did you go speaking to the doctor?
  • How are you feeling now after getting some help?

If they have not found the right person to speak to, encourage them by saying:

  • Would it be useful if we tried to find some other options to help you get through this?

Stay in touch with the person and be there for them by checking on them regularly. Showing care and concern towards someone can make a difference in someone's life.

Remember to look after yourself too. It's important that you are feeling good yourself so you can support others.

For more information, go to https://www.ruok.org.au/.

If you are feeling distressed, or need advice or support, you should consult your local medical professional. If you're in Australia, support is available via Lifeline 13 11 14 and SANE Australia 1800 18 SANE (7263).

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