In the lead up to the annual R U OK Day on Thursday 9th of September – we thought it was a good time to remind you of the importance of checking in with friends, co-workers and loved ones and provide some tips from R U OK on how to do this effectively.

This year the message of R U OK Day is: Are they really OK? Ask them today.

A place where asking the question “Are you ok?” can really work is in the workplace. As employers or team members, we can all create a culture where people feel confident asking and answering this simple yet important question. As well as providing a safe and healthy workplace, these conversations can make a real difference to team members going through a tough time. Although many of us are not physically in the office with our co-workers at the moment, this shouldn’t stop us reaching out and asking the questions.

What are the signs that someone you know is not ok?

  • Changes in mood
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Changing their online behaviour
  • Losing interest in what they used to love
  • Unable to switch off
  • Concerned about the future
  • Lonely or lacking self-esteem

Some other reasons why you might think to check in on someone is if they are experiencing a tough situation such as:

  • Relationship issues
  • Major health issues
  • Work pressure or constant stress
  • Financial difficulty
  • Grief/loss of a loved one

What is the best way to check and ask if they are ok?

It can be daunting and difficult to know how to initiate a conversation when you are worried someone is struggling – especially if it is a colleague from work or a friend you don’t normally have the tough conversations with – however it is so important to trust your gut. According to R U OK, by acting as ‘eyes and ears’ and reaching out to anyone who’s going through a tough time we can show them they’re supported and encourage them to access help sooner.

These are the suggested steps from R U OK:

1.     Pick your moment

ideally somewhere quiet, removed from other people and where the person will feel comfortable to talk without distractions. Make sure that you both have enough time to chat properly and not have to rush out.

2.     Ask Are You Ok?

Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?”

Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”

  • If they don’t want to talk – don’t force them.
  • Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them. – You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”

3.     Listen with an open mind

If the person does open up, sit back and listen – don’t interject, don’t try to immediately provide solutions for their issues. Acknowledge that things seem tough for them and encourage them to explain: “How are you feeling about that?” or “How long have you felt that way?”
4.     Encourage action

Here is where you can work with them to see what kind of help and actions they may need or benefit from

  • “How would you like me to support you?”
  • When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this… You might find it useful too.”

If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. You could say, “It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”

5.     Check in:

Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner. Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.

The R U OK website has a range of wonderful resources if you need a bit more of hand how to reach out, and relevant information for workplaces, communities and specific situations.

Check it out today and get behind the fundraising, awareness raising and reach out to your loved ones not just on Thursday the 9th on R U OK day but every day.

This is the third article in our new WWNSW Wellbeing Series – we are aiming to share articles, resources and tips weekly with advice from our EAP program to manage stress and promote wellbeing in and out of the workplace.