R U OK? What should you do next

Today, September 10, is R U OK? Day. If a friend or family member tells you they're not OK, they may need your support over the coming weeks and months. Photo: Shutterstock
Today, September 10, is R U OK? Day. If a friend or family member tells you they're not OK, they may need your support over the coming weeks and months. Photo: Shutterstock

Today, September 10, is R U OK? Day and it reminds us all to check in with our friends and family members with one simple question.

But, while the question may be simple, the answer may not be - especially in this year that's thrown a whole range of complications into everyone's lives.

Asking someone how they're going is a part of our day-to-day lives, but this day reminds us that we need to not only ask but also listen.

If someone trusts you enough to tell you they're not OK, it can be hard to know what to do next.

There are lots of things you can do to help someone in your life who is struggling.

The first thing to do is listen patiently and with an open mind, without interrupting or telling them what you're going through.

The next thing to do is to encourage them to do something to help themselves.

Ask what it is they usually do to make themselves feel better - what would be enjoyable or relaxing right now?

You can also ask them what it is they'd like from you - how can you support them through this?

It's also really important to encourage them to seek professional help, especially if they've been feeling down for more than two weeks.

Direct them to where they can find help: by seeing their GP, or calling a specialist organisation like Beyond Blue.

If the conversation is too big for you to deal with alone, or you have immediate concerns for their safety, call Lifeline or 000.

Most importantly, don't just leave the conversation there; it's vital to follow up.

You can do that in lots of ways: phone calls and messages (not just to check in on them but to chat and connect), going for a walk together, leaving a cooked dinner on their doorstep, and continuing to direct them to the help available to them.

These things let them know you're there, willing to help, and ready to listen again. The smallest of actions can make a huge difference in someone else's world.

If you need guidance on how to support someone visit ruok.org.au/how-to-ask

R U OK? is a suicide prevention charity that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with friends, family and colleagues who might be struggling with life.

Go to ruok.org.au or if you're struggling call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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