How to ask someone "R U OK?"

Ask: R U OK DAY on September 9 is a chance to start a conversation around mental health but the question can and should be asked anytime you're concerned about someone. Photo: Shutterstock
Ask: R U OK DAY on September 9 is a chance to start a conversation around mental health but the question can and should be asked anytime you're concerned about someone. Photo: Shutterstock

Trust your instincts when it comes to how your loved ones are feeling and don't be afraid to speak up.

"As instinctual beings, we are able to sense uncertainty and danger around ourselves, our companions, and the ones we love," Centacare SWNSW safety and family education practitioner Dylan Oliver said.

"Follow the signs like what they are saying, doing, and experiencing."

Dylan has the following tips on how best to ask someone how they're doing.

Location and timing

The place you ask the question is important. Make sure it's a confidential and quiet place where the person feels safe and trusted. It's also vital to ensure you have enough time to talk.

"Ensure you have no upcoming appointments or places you need to be - the individual may need some time to communicate how they are feeling, so it is important that you have enough time to ask, listen, and talk," Dylan said.

What to say

Simply ask "are you okay?" and let them know you're there to listen.

"These three words can go a long way in helping someone, because most the time many of us just wish to feel seen and be heard," Dylan said.

Encourage action

"A lot of the time people who need help are too afraid to ask," Dylan said.

"In this way, if we ask them what support they would like the individual may feel more inclined to ask for help - practically inviting them to ask what they need.

"If you believe you have experienced something similar to the person, tell them how you got through the difficult time, and what strategies and coping skills you may have used."

"Suggest any resources or referrals that may link the individual to professional health help such as a GP."

Follow up

Keep in touch every couple of weeks or more if they seem to be struggling.

"This shows you care and they have someone to rely on when things get tough," Dylan said.

"Ask them how they have been and if there is anything further you can do to support them. Keep in touch with the individual, and also their progress - if you identify weeks of struggling, then it may be time to suggest another approach."

Be respectful

Avoid interrogating (asking too many questions), criticising or judging.

"To be respectfully curious - let the individual answer and further explain that answer - once you have established congruency and trust, an individual will answer all your questions without you having to ask," Dylan said.

"Be conscious of your body language and facial expressions, and relay the individual's answers back to them in your own words to demonstrate you are listening."

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