So, a question that seems to come up quite often is, “What happens if someone says they’re not okay?” R U OK has really established this whole principle of asking people if they are okay during R U OK Day, not just during this day, but throughout the year.

How will you respond?

If you’re asking the question, you probably need to have a reasonable understanding of how you’re gonna respond if they say, “Well, I’m not okay.” And the first thing is, if they respond they’re not okay, is critical that you continue to listen to them and actually ask them, “In what way are you not okay? “What is happening?” And then, give that person an opportunity to explain what is going on in their life and in what way they’re not feeling okay. Following that, this then creates an opportunity for a broader conversation of what are the triggers, what’s going on in that person’s life, what are the stresses.

Encourage the person to get professional help

And, I think, your role when someone says to you they’re not okay, is to try and help that person get professional help. That could be going to see a psychologist, it could be going to see a GP, it could be ringing one of the numerous self-help lines that are around that are designed to support people who are starting to feel depressed or anxious. It’s not your role to be the therapist, it’s not your role to be the doctor, but I do think it’s your role to encourage and support that person to seek help, and hopefully get them to make a commitment to seek help.

Finally, it is ideal if you do follow up. Ask them how they are a few days later, ask them did they go and see the person they discussed, so that you’re seen as a supportive figure to that person who has said they’re not okay,

Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney

Last Reviewed: 17/09/2020

myDr

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