The past 18 months have been hard. There’s no sugarcoating that one. Between the pain caused by a global pandemic and the anxiety brought on by general uncertainty, health worries and extended lockdowns, it would be surprising if you haven’t had a difficult moment or two lately. R U OK Day (September 9) is centred on bringing more attention to that.
Considering one in five (20 per cent) Aussies experience mental health illness each year (without the added stress of a pandemic) — you know it’s likely someone you’re friends with or related to might be suffering, too.
While there are thankfully a fair few resources available for folks struggling with their mental health, it is always a good idea to check in on those close to you if you’re concerned they may be doing it tough.
Understandably, however, conversations like these can seem daunting – on R U OK Day and beyond. If you’re unsure where to begin, allow us to help. Here are some tips that may help you get started.
R U OK Day – how to start a conversation
While your mate receiving professional help is an important step, what comes before shouldn’t be overshadowed either. It’s that first, meaningful conversation that can really help a friend out and it starts with a simple, “how are doing?”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about asking someone about their mental health, just know all you need to do is listen and not force your mate to do anything or feel anything they’re not ready for. According to Beyond Blue, there are three easy steps to have a conversation.
- Ask if they want to talk about it. It might be that they don’t want to and that’s ok too. Maybe you’re not the right person for them to talk to, but you can make some suggestions.
- Listen. Silence may seem awkward at first but think of it as a chance for both of you to gather your thoughts. If you’re finding it difficult to understand what they’re talking about, it’s okay to ask them to explain further.
- Support is the most important thing you can offer and if they refuse, help them explore their options for how they could begin to feel better.
More useful resources
It may not be common knowledge — I didn’t know about it until recently — but there are mental health first aid courses available in Australia to help you help someone out. They can teach you how to assist a loved one experiencing a mental health or substance use-related crisis, what to say and what the warning signs are until you can get them to turn for help.
If you know a mate who might need mental health support, refer them to a psychologist who does telehealth appointments. If they’re not ready to talk on the phone, there are also services available that offer chat support.
Another particularly useful resource is an online self-development course offered by The Indigo Project in Sydney, Get Your Sh*t Together. It’s $50 for 10 virtual sessions complete with over 250+ minutes of video content, plus activities, journaling exercises, immersive audio experiences, guided meditations, custom playlists and more.
It’s a great introduction into thinking about the power of introspection and possibly seeking out support in the therapy room.
If you or someone you love is struggling, support is always available. There are people just on the other side of the phone waiting to speak to you — just call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636.
This article on R U OK Day and mental health support has been updated since its original publish date.