R U OK? – Ways to cut through to have a meaningful conversation

R U OK? Day

Bruce Sullivan is the Chief Wellbeing Officer at Metro North Hospital and Health Service and is committed to having meaningful conversations with his colleagues and loved ones today on R U OK? Day and every day.

Each year, R U OK? Day puts the spotlight on mental health and the significance of checking in with those around us. But have you stopped to ponder how often we run on autopilot, answering ‘all good’ or ‘fine thanks’ to this important question, without questioning how we really are?

For someone really struggling, this question might be hard to answer truthfully. Today, Bruce shares his tips for having an ‘are you really okay?’ conversation.

Tip 1 – Build relationships… pay attention

If you’re ever in doubt about someone’s mental health… please always ask! A conversation could literally change a life for the better! Everyday other day as a colleague or friend we have the opportunity to be building fun and healthy relationships with colleagues, family and friends. You will with time get to know who they are and how they operate so you can notice when they aren’t themselves. These quality relationships lay the foundations for confidentiality and trust. This can mean the difference between someone telling you how they are actually feeling or hiding the truth by simply saying “all good!”.

Tip 2 – Make sure you have time for the answer

Before you ask someone ‘R U OK?’, make sure you have the time to dedicate to the conversation. Don’t ask someone right before a meeting or before you rush out the door for work, as you are not allowing space for the person to genuinely tell you how they feel. Have this conversation over a meal of an evening or in a lunch break, so you can pay it the attention it deserves.

Tip 3 – Listen to understand

Remember, you’re not there to fix that person’s problem but rather to listen intently to their situation, their feelings, their thoughts, their fears and their ideas WITHOUT trying to jump in with a solution to fix the situation or cheer them up. DO say things like “that sounds pretty tough… you’re not alone… how can I help?” It can be challenging truly listening without wanting to jump in and solve the problem so work on this every chance you can to listen to understand, not to reply!

Tip 4 – Encourage action

After listening, you can work with and encourage your friend or peer to think of some actions they can take from here. Your role is to support in this process and supply some resources or suggestions where applicable. Questions like, “what could you do to help with the pressure?”, or “how do you think you could make some changes to help you with this?” may help you and them move the conversation along!

Tip 5 – Be there, not just today

You may not be able to connect with the person straight away to have this R U OK? conversation.  Either because you’re both not available in the moment or the person you are asking may not want to talk about it just yet.  It’s important to agree a time as soon as possible and/or remind them you are here when they want to talk to you.

R U OK? Day is not just for the day, so check in regularly and offer ongoing reminders that you care and are available to chat.

If you know someone struggling this R U OK? Day or any day, encourage them to seek further support. There are a range of resources on the R U OK? website.

Remember, a conversation could change a life!