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.
R U OK?
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.
R U OK?
Something sobering to ponder about.