How to start a R U OK? conversation

Keeping in touch with others is crucial for our health and wellbeing. And having regular, meaningful conversations is simple; you don’t need special training to do it. Here are some helpful pointers to help you connect with someone you think may be doing it tough.

PLEASE NOTE:
The R U OK? website does not provide crisis intervention or counselling. If you are in need of urgent support or are worried about someone, please contact your local GP (doctor) or the agencies listed on the I need help now page.

 

  • Start a general conversation somewhere private.
  • Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
  • Ask open–ended questions to discuss concerns based on their behaviour.

  • Guide the conversation with caring questions.
  • The more they talk the better. A problem shared is a problem halved.
  • Don’t rush to solve problems for them. It is better to have a full understanding of the issues.
  • Listen to the person without judging them as lazy or weak. They are trying to cope as best they can.
  • Don’t give advice like “cheer up” or “pull yourself together” or “you’ll be right mate”.
  • It is important to let them know that it is good they are discussing it.

  • Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do.
  • Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor.
  • It is essential to follow up. Nothing changes until someone acts.

  • People who are really struggling often find it difficult to take action. Therefore, it is very important to follow up on how they are going.
  • Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they are desperate, follow up with them sooner.
  • Ask if they have managed to take that first step and see someone.

Dealing with denial?

  • If they deny the problem, do not criticize them. Acknowledge they are not ready to talk.
  • Say you are still concerned about changes in their behaviour.
  • Ask if you can enquire again next week if there is no improvement.

 

What if you think the person is considering suicide?

If you are worried that someone you know is doing it tough or is thinking about suicide, it is important that you give that person an opportunity to talk about it. Find a quiet and private space to ask them how they are feeling and whether they have had any thoughts about suicide. Speak in a calm, confident and non-judgemental manner to help them feel supported and reassured.

If someone says they are thinking about suicide, it is important you take it seriously. Tell them that you care about them and you want to help. Don’t become agitated, angry or upset. Explain that thoughts of suicide are common and don’t have to be acted upon.

It is also essential that you determine whether they have formulated a plan to take their life. Ask if they have decided how they will kill themselves or if they have begun to take steps to end their life. If they have, it is critical that you do NOT leave them alone and do NOT use guilt or threats to prevent suicide. Get immediate professional help or call emergency help lines – such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on1300 659 467 – for advice and support.

People who are thinking about suicide may signal their suicidal intentions to others. In other cases, there may be no warning. It is therefore critical that you regularly engage with family, friends and colleagues and provide them with the attention and time to ask them how they are going.

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