In the lead up to R U OK day we’ve been hearing about how important it is to ask someone if they are alright. But how do you know when to ask? Here is what to look for.
When someone you know has acting strangely, that’s when you need to ask. Perhaps they have been withdrawing from social activities they previously enjoyed, maybe they often seem distracted with a distant look in their eyes. Another good time to ask is when you know that they have had recent hardships, such as bullying or a relationship break-up. Maybe you just have a feeling and you can’t put your finger on it.
So let’s say you’ve noticed a friend has been acting differently, you’re unsure if he is okay, and you have been courageous and asked him. What happens if he says he’s struggling- how should you respond? If someone has been feeling anxious or depressed, they can often feel embarrassed or ashamed that they “haven’t been able to deal with it”. So we don’t want to tell him that it’s ‘not a big deal’ or that he’s ‘worried about nothing’, or that you know someone else who had it worse.
Rather we want to listen non-judgmentally so our friend feels accepted. Let them know that you’re around to support them. Rather than giving advice, ask if there is anything you can do to help. We know that for people in the hardest situations who may be thinking about suicide, some of the most difficult feelings are fears of being alone or being a burden to others. By being there for them we reduce the loneliness. By accepting them we reduce the feeling of being a burden. These are the most important things you can do as a friend.
Here are a couple of videos about R U OK day, and how to ask someone if they are alright.
What is R U OK? Day
How to ask: