Community, Mental Health, Motivational

Are You OK?

Charlotte Dawson’s tragic death, reminded me of a recent campaign that highlighted the issue of mental illness, primarily depression and suicide, in our community. The R U OK? Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ as a support to colleagues and those who may be struggling with life. They aim to get people talking, by one person initiating a natural conversation that could change the way the other person is feeling or thinking. It won’t necessarily cure or solve a problem, but it may be an opportunity for us to show work colleagues/family/friends that someone cares, and who doesn’t want to feel that they were listened to?

How often do we hear comments following a suicide such as: “I thought they were fine; He seemed to be doing well /he was really happy; as if this was a total surprise. And maybe it was, so R U Ok? is a great way to identify people who are seemingly, “doing fine”, but are, in reality, suffering inside before they take any drastic steps.  It gives them an opportunity to talk, if they so wish, and may avert the downward spiral of their negative thinking.


Four steps were identified in the R U Ok? conversation:

1. Ask R U OK?

Start a conversation somewhere private

Build trust through open and relaxed body language

Ask open – ended questions: How, what, when, why, where, anything that does not generate a Yes No response. Paraphrase their answers so you are not firing off one question after another. You don’t want them to close down because they feel they are being interrogated.

2. Listen without judgement

Give them  time to reply

Avoid suggesting how they ‘solve’ their problem

Don’t trivialize what they are feeling

3. Encourage Action

Summarize the issues/ Paraphrase their comments

Ask them what they plan to do *** – don’t tell them what to do

Urge them to take one step towards that solution

4. Follow up ***

Put a note in your diary to call them in one week

Listen without judgement again

Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step

*** These aspects are particularly important, as they can galvanise the person into actually taking that first step, and not just thinking about it.

N.B. If they deny they have a problem, it might just mean that they are not ready to talk about it yet. so check in with them again soon. And remember… It is ok to say, “I’m not OK.”


The acronym BOUNCE BACK can also help individuals counteract negative thoughts.

B ad times, like bad weather, does pass. It doesn’t last. Things can always get better. Stay optimistic

O ther people can help if you talk to them. “I’m really not feeling ok”

U nhelpful thinking makes you feel more upset

N obody is perfect – not you and not others

C oncentrate on the positives (no matter how small) and use laughter (Laughter really is the best medicine!)

E verybody experiences sadness, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes, not just you. They’re a normal part of life, don’t personalize them.

B lame fairly – how much was due to you, to others, and to bad luck?

A ccept what can’t be changed (but try to change what you can change first)

C atastrophising exaggerates your worries. Don’t believe the worst possible picture.

K eep things in perspective. It’s only one part of the spectrum of your whole life.

Mental Illness, depression, anxiety in the modern world is on the rise. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most commonly presenting mental illness in the world today.


Something sobering to ponder about.

12 thoughts on “Are You OK?”

  1. This is extremely important. Even when someone isn’t depressed enough to consider suicide, the knowledge that someone is listening and noticing is crucial. I work in a culture where it is still a sign of weakness to be depressed. When I notice the signs in one of my students, I start the conversation, and they are so relieved to know that someone understands. I am also willing to share my own struggle with depression, and that makes a huge difference as well. It also gives them hope that even though they feel this way that it is possible to find a path to feeling ok. Many of them can’t believe that I have that struggle, but knowing that they have someone they can talk to has made huge differences for many students. I guess the surprising thing for me is that there are many more people suffering with this situation that we might believe. Thanks for sharing this!

    I will visit the R U OK? website and see about posting something similar on my blog.


    1. Many thanks for your brave and valid comment. Mental illness is still such a taboo, and this doesn’t help those who suffer. Your students are lucky to have you there if they need it. I like this R U Ok campaign because it can be a subtle conversation starter for anyone.


  2. Thanks for reminding me again that depression does not need to occupy your whole world! As soon as I start feeling the big D coming I try to go out and take my mind off it by forcing myself to take some photos or go to a shop and talk to people..Hard to do on your own but it helps to change your thinking.


    1. absolutely! It takes effort to do this, especially when you are feeling negative. Apathy rules our thinking then. But just getting out and walking and occupying the mind with other things can change and distract the mind. It is great to hear that you have found this works.


        1. Oh I am sorry to hear that Ineke. We also have had dealings with this unwelcome friend at times in my immediate family. I am always here with a listening ear, if you need it. But I think you are a strong person, just look at what you have achieved!! There are things that you have done ( move countries for instance) that many others would not find the strength, will or guts to do and it also sounds like you are pro-active in taking steps to deal with it!! You are an inspiration to me.


          1. Thanks for the positive feed back. Sometimes I (or those who are depressed) can only think of negative things and that’s when words like yours mean the world to me(them) and I can move on again.


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