Written by Home Doctor Brisbane Team
A lot of work has been done over recent years to raise the profile and widen the conversation around mental health. We should all be more aware of the conditions our peers, colleagues, relatives and friends might be battling. We should all feel more free to discuss our own struggles.
If you want to speak up or reach out, maybe a conversation with a loved one starts with asking them if they are OK. Maybe you need to tell someone you’re not OK yourself. We have sought some advice from organisations and experts working in the mental health sector on the best way to do that.
Firstly, if you or a loved one need to speak to someone immediately, call Lifeline’s crisis support line on 13 11 14.
Every year there is a national RUOK day. Of course, you can ask anyone this question all year round. The charity behind the day encourages us to think about reaching out to someone we might believe to be in need of a good chat 365 days of the year and has a range of resources available to help.
RUOK reminds us “it’s not always obvious that someone is struggling and we sometimes need to be reminded to trust our gut instinct and dig a bit deeper”.
The charity also says “you don’t have to be best mates to offer support”.
In RUOK’s guide for approaching colleagues, the charity says we should reach out to someone if we’re worried and have noticed negative changes in physical appearance, mood, how they communicate and how they express themselves.
Youth organisation Reach Out says there are a few things we can do before we make an approach to help the conversation go as smoothly as possible.
Reach Out suggests:
- Make sure the conversation takes place in private. This probably isn’t the kind of chat that your friend will want people to overhear
- Try to remove all distractions before having the chat. Do what you can to get them to focus without making a big deal out of it. Some good ways to do this are by making regular eye contact and using their name
- Make sure they know you’re listening. You might be nervous but make sure you look interested and try to use relaxed body language.
Arm yourself with any information you can about what the person has been going through lately. Has there been a death in their family, any relationship breakdowns or major life changes? The aim of the conversation is for the person you’re concerned about to open up to you so let them tell you what’s worrying them themselves but it’s good to do your research.
So, it’s time to open your mouth and speak. Reach Out has given us some sentence starters to help us find the right words.
You might want to try one of these:
“Hey, how have you been lately? What’s been happening?”
“You haven’t seemed yourself lately – is there something you want to talk about?”
“What’s going on for you at the moment?”
“How are you doing? Anything you want to chat about?”
If the person opens up to you, it’s important to have a response that’s supportive, non-judgemental and, if you’re comfortable, directs them towards some assistance.
“Having the conversation is the first step, but it’s by no means the last,” Reach Out says.
“Stay in regular contact with your friend, whether it’s sending them a text message or calling them regularly, it’s important that they know you haven’t forgotten about them.”
If you or someone you know needs professional assistance call Lifeline on 13 11 14. If it’s an emergency call triple-0.