In 2020, R U OK? Day and the conversations it prompts are more important than ever
10.09.2020

In 2020, R U OK? Day and the conversations it prompts are more important than ever

WORDS BY JESSICA MAGTALAS

How to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK.

The isolating restrictions and lockdowns resulting from COVID-19 have presented us with unprecedented challenges, especially when it comes to our mental health. So now, more than ever, is the time to ask others, ‘Are you okay?’

Amidst the current lack of physical connection and social interactions, R U OK? Day’s ‘There’s More to Say After R U OK?’ campaign is urging Australians to check in regularly with friends and family.

This year, R U OK? looks to nurture our sense of responsibility, whilst strengthening our perception of belonging and confidence to boost those meaningful conversations.

“Since 2009, R U OK? Day has become a nationally recognised day of action. This year, in particular, the message of ‘R U OK’ and our theme of ‘There’s More to Say After R U OK?’ is more relevant and more important that we’re keeping connected with one another,” says Indigenous entrepreneur & R U OK?’s Stronger Together Campaign Manager, Steven Satour.

“It’s really about, not yourself, but checking in with those people around you, whoever is in your world – friends, family, colleagues. Making sure we check up on those people is really important.”

During this confronting and, at times, confusing period, letting the people in your life know that it’s okay not to be okay is crucial. Digital platforms and technologies that allow us to stay connected while we’re physically apart are our greatest weapons against loneliness and isolation in lockdown.

“The thought of having a conversation and an ‘R U OK?’ conversation can be overwhelming, but the steps that we lay out in our resources are quite simple. Making sure that you’re creating a space that is positive for that – so if you’re face-timing someone, maybe don’t have a conversation about a house party or don’t have people that will or can interrupt.

“Most importantly, have an open mind. Letting somebody talk about their experience and empathise or sympathise with them,” explains Satour.

Knowing that mental health can pose difficult and sensitive challenges to overcome, not just checking up on someone but having a conversation beyond the initial ‘are you okay?’ is essential.

“One of our four steps is taking ‘encouraging action’ and that doesn’t mean telling them what to do but asking them what they think, what they should do, because at times they already know what to do but they just need that push, which could lead to getting professional help. It’s that encouragement,” says Satour.

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It's #RUOKDay, a reminder that every day is a day to start a conversation that could change a life. Today we're calling on Australians to learn what to say after R U OK? so they can keep the conversation going when someone says they're not OK. There's more to say after R U OK? ✅ Learn what to say when listening with an open mind ✅ Learn what to say when encouraging action ✅ Learn what to say when checking in ✅ Learn how to continue a conversation that could change a life. When we know what to say next we can help someone open up and find pathways to support long before they're in crisis. Learn what to say next and help us move closer to our vision of a world where we're all connected and are protected from suicide. Head to www.ruok.org.au/how-to-ask (link in bio) #theresmoretosay #RUOK #RUOKeveryday

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A phone call, facetime, message or even just a post online are just a few ways to check on those around you. As described on the R U OK? website, trust your instincts and be aware of changes in one’s online behaviour or the way they communicate with others – because anything is everything right now.

“Our resources are about how to have meaningful conversations and sort of reiterate that you don’t have to be an expert and you don’t have to try to solve someone’s problem or experience. It’s just about trying to support and connect with your friend and family member,” Satour explains.

“Since everything is sort of online, there can be subtle things or a gut instinct reaction … something that doesn’t seem like that person would really do. Though don’t start by asking them, ‘What’s wrong’, because that sort of puts it in a negative space,” he continues.

Launched in 2009 by founder Gavin Larkin, the not-for-profit organisation aims to inspire and empower everyone by establishing the notion of ‘staying connected and together’ and supporting those struggling in life. Making sure that no one endures the grief that Larkin experienced after the passing of his father by suicide. Reoccurring annually on the second Thursday of September, R U OK? Day envisions a world where we are all united and protected from suicide.

Steven outlines that what there’s no harm in asking that difficult question.

“If you know someone is going through a tough life experience – someone’s passed away or they’ve lost their job or even are just feeling down, anything like that, they end up being afraid to reach out and sometimes you just need to pull back and respect their space and check in a couple of days later. There can be even those who are just really needing someone to reach out to them and talk about it.”

“It’s normal to be feeling a range of emotions at this time. If you feel comfortable, reach out to someone and have a bit of a chat. Even if it’s just going to our website or Facebook page to hear about people’s stories or medical professionals. Also, if someone you know is going through something, look out for them, reach out to them and have those meaningful conversations.”

For resources and to join the conversation, visit the R U OK? website. 

This article originally appeared on Forte