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RUOK? How to help those struggling with mental health

By Kate Taylor

Published Date: 2018/02

R U Ok

This week I had the privilege to be a part of the RUOK Community Ambassador training for two intense days. I met some amazing people that have all had their own journey of mental health or been affected by a family, friend or co-worker who went through mental health issues.

The reality is every 8 minutes in Australia there is someone attempting Suicide and 8 deaths a day! Which equates to over 3,300 people a year. I was shocked that the statistics were so high, and it makes me even more passionate about being an RUOK Community Ambassador.

I personally went through a journey of mental health as a teenager and made an attempt on my life at the age of 15, due to bullying at school that got so bad, I felt I couldn’t take it anymore. Thankfully I survived and am here today to share with you how important it is to reach out to friends or family around you if you know they are struggling with their own journey of mental health or feeling suicidal.

RUOK charity promotes the fact that we all have a role to play in helping a friend, colleague or family member struggling with mental health. We don’t need to be a qualified doctor or psychologist to show support and help to someone struggling with mental health or suicide.

RUOK have broken down 4 steps for you to have a conversation with someone who is struggling with mental health

1. Ask – RUOK?

Find a time and place to ask the person in your own way are you ok? even mention you noticed they have not been themselves lately e.g. “I noticed you have been less chatty than usual, how are you going?”

2. Listen without judgement

  • Take what they say to you seriously, don’t interrupt or rush the conversation.

  • Ask them open questions like “how do you feel about that?” “how long have you felt that way?” Show that you have listened by checking they have understood.

  • Try and do it in a way that shows you’ve listened to all the details and you are really trying to understand what they are going through. “It sounds like you are juggling a few things now and you are feeling really stretched”

  • if they get angry or upset stay calm and don’t take it personally. Let them know you’re asking because you care and acknowledge the times seem tough for them.

3. Encourage Action

  • Help them think about one or two things that can be done to better manage the situation. It might even be they take some time out for themselves or doing something fun or relaxing.

  • “Ask what I can do to help you get through this?” “how would you like me to support you”.

  • If necessary, encourage them to see a doctor or other professional. This is particularly important if they have been struggling and down for many weeks.

  • Offer to help them find the right person for them to talk too. Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times, but understand it make take a bit of time to find the right one. You can also find all sorts of tips here:

4. Check In – Follow up

  • Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks and if they are really struggling to follow up sooner – listen to your intuition on this to guide you how often to connect with them. I often find that person pops in my mind when I need check in with them.

  • Say something like “I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to know your doing since we last spoke?”

  • Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything don’t judge them. They might just need someone to listen to them at moment.

  • Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.

I hope this provides some practical ways you can reach out to people in your world struggling with mental health. Remember a conversation can change someone’s life!

If you would like me to come and speak at your workplace, school or community groups about RUOK and helping those struggling with mental health please contact me directly or call 02 98104498