How to ask someone R U OK?

by Laura Kowski on Sunday 03 September 2023

3 min read

Looking out for others, whether it’s in the gym, workplace, at home or online is important every day of the year. But R U OK?Day on 14 September aims to bring awareness to how we can help our friends, family, and community open up and feel supported.

Why it’s important to check in

At Virgin Active, we understand the link between mental and physical health. We want to create a gym community at our clubs that encourages members and staff to look out for each other. With 8.6 million Australians experiencing a mental health disorder at some point in their lives, it’s important to understand how we can help support each other to better mental health.

How to check in with those around you

Part of the R U OK? organisation’s advice for checking in with others is to make sure we’re in the right headspace to do so. If we aren’t feeling okay ourselves, it can be difficult to share someone else’s load, and may have a negative impact on our mental health. It can also be frustrating for the person we’re looking out for if we appear as though we’re listening, but aren’t focused or present.

If you’re confident you’ve got the capacity and time to listen to someone who might need it, then here are some steps to get the most out of the conversation.


Ask

You may be concerned about a friend who’s been quieter than usual, but you don’t want to push them away by asking invasive questions. In this case, it helps to start the conversation with an open question, like “What’s been happening lately?” or “How have you been?”. If they pretend everything is fine or put on a brave face, make sure to let them know you’re always there to talk if they need.


Listen

Listening with empathy is so important when someone opens up about their struggles. It can be difficult for many people to even talk about what they’re going through, so if you’ve gotten this far, that’s great! Even if you don’t understand the other person’s feelings, try your best to listen without judgement or trying to solve their problems.


Encourage action

A lot of people don’t seek out professional help with their mental health for many reasons. Cost may be one, but knowing where to start when it comes to finding the right professional to talk to can be a daunting task. And often, when you’re already carrying a heavy mental load, the thought of navigating this hurdle is too much in itself. So it can really help if you can give someone a starting point, such as offering to send them contact details of people you or those in your circle have seen.

You might also suggest they organise an appointment with their GP to get a mental health treatment plan. This is a great first step to getting help, and can help support the cost of appointments with mental health professionals.

If you’re worried for someone’s wellbeing due to their mental state, it’s best to seek professional help as soon as you can.


Check in

Even if someone doesn’t reach out after your initial conversation, it’s good to check in and see how they’re going. Often, those struggling with poor mental health are reluctant to reach out to friends and family because they don’t want to burden others with their struggles.

You can send a text message to ask how they’re doing, or if they’d like to catch up for a coffee or go for a walk. It’s good to give an option where you can both spend time together without the pressure of putting the focus on their mental health. For example, you may offer to work out together. Doing something active with a friend can help temporarily release endorphins and help reduce feelings of stress too.

Don’t get discouraged

Even if you find yourself upset at not receiving much of a response or having to make the first contact, remember to stay patient. The person you care about isn’t trying to be rude or cold. They’re probably doing their best to make it through each day, so always extend compassion and grace, and let them know you’re around when they’re ready.

Further support

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health and needs support, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or health professional. For immediate support, visit R U OK?’s Fine help page for contact details of free 24/7 support services.

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