How to ask: R U OK?

Life & Style

HELP stop little problems becoming bigger by connecting with somebody you care about and asking them, “are you okay?”. Here's some tips for having the conversation.

HELP stop little problems becoming bigger by connecting with somebody you care about and asking them, “are you okay?”


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.

The story How to ask: R U OK? first appeared on Farm Online.


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