21st September, 2022
8 September only comes once a year, but the need for R U OK? is constant. Here’s how business leaders can start to make wellbeing discussions a regular fixture.
Are you OK?
That’s the seemingly simple question at the heart of each R U OK? Day.
Established in 2009, the day is a reminder to check in with friends, family and co-workers who may be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing.
However, the core purpose of any reminder is to emphasise the importance of the subject – in the case of R U OK?, to open up dialogue for potentially difficult conversations.
You don’t have to be an expert to reach out – it’s about opening lines of communication around topics that are ignored and stigmatised far too often.
There’s no one formula for tackling mental health – it’s about doing what you can to raise awareness and start those all-important conversations.
If you’re in a leadership position at your workplace or education centre, think about how you’re creating a culture that prioritises discussions around mental health and checking in with each other.
Here are some of the ways workplaces chose to shine a light on the topic this 8 September for R U OK? Day:
So how do you keep the conversation going?
If you’ve noticed that someone seems upset, withdrawn or just not themselves, it’s worth checking in.
Make sure you feel emotionally stable and ready for a tough conversation.
Here’s how to get started:
Pick a private, unhurried time to chat, and take a relaxed, friendly approach.
Mention the changes you’ve noticed and say you’re concerned before asking if they are ok.
If they don’t want to talk, don’t push – but say that you’re ready to listen if they change their mind.
If the person needs to talk, listen without interruption or judgement.
Ask questions or clarify to let them know you’re actively listening, but don’t try to chime in with suggestions or platitudes.
When it’s clear that the person has finished talking, encourage them to take action and offer to support them if they need help.
Suggest a visit to their GP or a counsellor, encourage them to talk to family or friends, talk about your own experiences (if they’re relevant) or point them towards resources that could help.
Try to be positive and tell them you’ll check in with them soon.
After your initial chat, pop a reminder on your phone to check in a week or two. Indicate that you’ve been thinking about them, ask how they’re doing and reiterate that you’re there to listen if they need more support.
Note: if you’re genuinely concerned that someone is suicidal, don’t just ask and wait – reach out for support and suggestions from Lifeline immediately.
While R U OK? day serves as a great jumping-off point for tough conversations, it shouldn’t be the only time we think about suicide prevention or check in with loved ones.
Keep the conversation open throughout the year, let your colleagues, friends and family know you’re available to talk, and don’t be afraid to ask: are you okay?