You don’t have to be an expert to support somebody going through a tough time.
You just need to be able to listen to their concerns without judgement and take the time to follow up with them.
Below are some simple tips from R U OK? to starting a conversation.
1. Ask ‘are you okay?’
- Start a general conversation; preferably somewhere private
- Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language
- Ask open-ended questions.
2. Listen without judgement
- Guide the conversation with caring questions and give them time to reply
- Don’t rush to solve problems for them
- Help them understand that solutions are available when they’re ready to start exploring these
3. Encourage action
- Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do
- Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor
- If they’re unsure about where to go to for help, help them to contact a local doctor or help them make contact with a mental health professional.
4. Follow up
- Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they’re desperate, follow up sooner
- Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step and see someone
- If they didn’t find this experience helpful, urge them to try a different professional because there’s somebody out there who can help them.
Dealing with denial
- If they deny the problem, don’t criticise them. Acknowledge they’re not ready to talk
- Say you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them
- Ask if you can inquire again next week if there’s no improvement
- Avoid a confrontation with the person unless it’s necessary to prevent them hurting themselves or others
What if I can’t speak to them face-to-face?
Use the same 4 steps above and talk to them over the phone.
Avoid calling from a noisy place or while travelling If they’re in a rush, make a time to call them back. Remember they can’t see your face, so it’s important to verbally indicate your support
“I wanted to call up and have a chat to you about how you’re going. Is now a good time?” “It sounds like you’re busy or in a rush. When is a good time to call you back to have a proper chat?”
For more tips, visit R U OK?
This article was first published in The Land's 2013 Glove Box Guide to Mental Health. To read more from the guide, click here.