R U OK Day, observed annually on (and this year on 14 September, is a reminder of the significance of conversations and human connection for nurturing mental well-being. Considerate responses are paramount when someone tells us that they are not doing well. Here are seven points to guide your interactions when someone opens up about their struggles:
1. Empathetic Validation
Commence by acknowledging their emotions. A simple “I’m here for you” or “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way” can set the stage for a safe and supportive environment that encourages them to share. Use verbal cues like “I hear you” and nonverbal cues such as nodding to demonstrate active listening.
2. R U OK Day requires embracing Non-Judgment
Refrain from instantly providing advice, as it can seem judgmental. Foster an atmosphere of acceptance by seeking to understand their viewpoint while respecting their own beliefs, values, and histories.
3. Avoiding Quick Fixes in the spirit of R U OK Day
Steer clear of offering simplistic remedies like “Just cheer up.” Instead, offer empathetic understanding by acknowledging their challenges and attempting to comprehend their perspective. Remember, most individuals don’t seek solutions; they seek someone who cares.
4. Shifting from Answers to Questions
Relieve yourself from the weight of offering solutions to life’s challenges. Instead, present open-ended queries that aid in comprehending the complexities. Utilising simple phrases like “How did that impact you?” conveys authentic care and keen interest.
5. Respecting Privacy
If they entrust you with sensitive information, honour their trust. Avoid discussing their struggles in the presence of others and always seek their consent before sharing their story.
6. Offering Ongoing Support after R U OK Day
Conclude your dialogue positively by assuring them of your availability for further discussions. Following up the next day or sending an encouraging message reaffirms your care beyond R U OK Day.
7. Suggesting Professional Help
If their burdens appear overwhelming, gently recommend considering professional assistance when necessary. The Centre for Effective Living has a dedicated team of psychologists ready to offer further guidance.
R U OK Day reminds us of the power of connection and empathy. By responding thoughtfully and compassionately, we can contribute to a culture of understanding and support, both online and offline. You can read more about the origin of R U OK Day here.