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R U OK Day Check-in
Last Thursday on the 8th of September it was R U OK Day
R U OK? Day is our National Day of Action dedicated to reminding everyone that every day is the day to ask, “are you OK?” and support those struggling with life’s ups and downs. R U OK DAY was founded in 2009 by Gavin Larkin who chose to champion this day in honour of his father’s suicide in 1995. Gavin was left with all these questions, leaving him with just one question he wished he’d asked, “Are you OK?”
R U OK day is a reminder for all of us to check in with our loved ones, our colleagues, or even strangers. R U OK Day is certainly not the only day we should be checking in with people, this should be done daily, weekly, monthly, or whenever you feel like you see someone struggling or someone who has a lot on their plate. Asking “R U OK” is, however, not reserved only for people who appear to be struggling, it should be extended to every individual, as a conversation with any person could save a life. Many people may not appear to be struggling but might be good at hiding it, or don’t want to show their emotions outwardly. Your conversation with them might be the only one they have received in a very long time. R U OK Day, or asking someone if they are okay, does not have to be a scary conversation or even something structured or rehearsed. It could simply be a kind act, a check-in if you have noticed a friend being more distant, OR just a conversation. The most important part of having conversations with people is creating a safe and non-judgmental space for people to share information that may be vulnerable to them. Show them that they can come to you to chat, or that you can provide support if they ever need it. The thing we need to remember: everybody has struggles, everybody’s struggles are relative and important to them, so never judge someone for their struggles.
And if you reach out and the person doesn’t feel like sharing at that moment and appears closed off, that is okay! Just follow it with “you don’t have to share anything with me right now, but know that I am here if you need to talk”. Never make an individual feel bad for not sharing information, as there may be many reasons that they may not feel safe to share at that moment, and they may be experiencing some scary things behind closed doors such as violence, relationship issues, depression, anxiety and so much more. If someone does trust you to share something vulnerable, it is important to show your support and encourage them to take action on their feelings, whether that’s taking some time for them to speak to a professional or suggesting a coffee catch-up or a walk to debrief further. When encouraging action, some things you shouldn’t do, are force people to make decisions or seek help or show your disappointment in them for not seeking help earlier. That person may have been struggling to discuss these vulnerable topics for months, years, or their whole life, and them sharing with you shows they trust you with the information. If you make that person feel bad for not getting help, that could lead to further closing off, further shutting down, and a lack of trust in people for the future. What you SHOULD do is make them aware that you are grateful for them sharing this information with you and that you appreciate their vulnerability and whatever step they think should be next, you will be there for them.
Re-checking in down the track is also extremely important, not only to show that you genuinely were and are interested in their wellbeing, but it makes that person feel supported and establishes trust in the relationship.
If you were ever struggling with something, how would you want people to respond or show their support? Treat people how you would like to be treated. Kindness spreads kindness and positivity breeds positivity.
Another important thing to remember is, we all struggle. At some point in each of our lives, we will have a struggle. Some people have more than others and some last longer than others. It is okay not to be okay, and it is okay to ask for help. We all need help sometimes. Stay brave, keep fighting, and let others in to help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. Knowing you can’t carry it all, is strength.
You have the power to change your life and change another person’s life for the better if you just take that FIRST STEP.
SO LET’S WRAP UP – The most important things we have learned are…
ASK: ARE YOU OKAY?
This may come in many forms and does not just have to be “are you okay?”. Find your own special way to check in with people.
Listen with an open mind and with no judgement. Provide safety, support, and trust.
Encourage an individual to take steps to improve or navigate the situation causing them distress or pain. Ask if they need help taking that step.
Check in again
A re-check-in is extremely important to show you really listened, cared for, and supported that individual. It will make someone feel remembered, understood, and relieved.
If you ask today, there will be a better tomorrow. For you and for them. Together we are stronger. A conversation could save a life.
So have a conversation…
Xana, Brand Ambassador
Top tip: Employee Assist Programs are available in Healthcare Australia and most workplaces for external staff AND internal staff AND are extended for use for your immediate family members and a certain number are cost-free! This means you, your parents, your siblings, or your partner can also access EAP free for their own personal use.
Accessing EAP does not have to be work-related, but allows you to access support confidentially. These can be performed over the phone or in person and can be accessed for a wide range of reasons, sometimes you just need to chat.
Reach out, seek support, and spread kindness.