Today is RUOK Day. I love the awareness that today brings to the challenges relating to Mental Health and the reminder of the importance for people to ask that simple question. I’ve personally found myself in a place where I have seen the value in someone asking that question, and at other times been in a place where I wish someone would ask but they have not. 

A lot of what we read this week is all about how to ask if someone is ok, but if we are the one being asked and need to talk, it can be difficult to know what to say.

It’s okay to not be okay.

For a whole range of reasons we can feel tempted to just say we are fine. There are many ways to answer the question I’m sure, but personally what I have found helpful is reflecting on some of these questions. 

1. ‘ME’ – How does this person make me feel?

When someone takes the time to ask ‘R U OK’ we need to start by appreciating that this person cares enough to stop and ask the question. This is meaningful, regardless of how we are currently feeling. We then need to reflect on how this person makes us feel. Do we feel safe discussing how we feel with this person?

Whether we feel safe about having a conversation with this person or not we can still acknowledge the question and show appreciation.  

e.g If you feel ok to talk “Thank you for taking the time to ask. I appreciate that. I don’t think I am okay and I’d really like to talk more”

e.g If you don’t feel ok to talk – “Thank you for taking the time to ask. I appreciate that. I’m not doing so great, but I have someone that I can talk to about it, but what would be most helpful from you right now is (insert what would be most helpful from that person)”. 

If you feel ok to talk you can continue

2. ‘I’ – How am I feeling?

How are you feeling? Remember that feelings can look different for everybody. If I say that I feel sad, that can look different for me than the person asking. Try and be specific about how you feel. 

e.g “I feel (insert answer), which for me looks like (insert answer)”

How long have you felt like this for? Do you know what has contributed to you feeling this way? You don’t need to go into all the details, but it can be helpful to reflect on times where you may feel more vulnerable than other times. 

3. YOU – How can you help me?

I cannot recommend seeking professional help more highly. Psychologists or counsellors are fast losing the stigma they once had. There is no shame in seeking out someone who can provide a professional, non-judgemental, impartial perspective that friends cannot. Friends are friends, but they are not professional help. 

Determine what would be most helpful from this person. Can they help connect you with professional help? Can they get coffee once a week just to debrief? Do you just need some words of encouragement from time to time?  Be specific on what would be most helpful for you in this time. 

e.g “I’m already speaking with a professional about how I am feeling, but right now what would be really helpful from you is (insert answer)”

or “I appreciate your friendship, but I also need some professional help, could you help me find someone that can help me. What I would really value most from you is (insert answer)”

4. WE – What can we do together?

One of the biggest dangers is isolation. We are better together and need the love of those closest to us. Take time to explore how you can walk the day to day journey with those closest to you. We need a friend to talk to and debrief with, but we also need a friend we can do life with and have fun together with. 

Take time to think of some things you can do together that don’t focus solely on the challenges you are facing. Make plans to do the things you enjoy with the people you love. 

e.g “Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I know our conversations are important but I would also love some time where we make some plans to do things we enjoy together. Can we make some plans together?” 

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger. Call 000. For help and support visit the RUOK Day website here