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Here to Hear this R U OK? Day

If someone at work asked you ‘Are you okay?’, how likely would you be to respond truthfully? While we understand the importance of talking about our mental health, it can still be frightening to open up about our feelings to others, especially at work.

Published:

05/09/2023

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Converge International

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R U OK Day is an annual event held on the second Thursday of September in Australia. It serves as a powerful reminder for people to connect with others and ask a simple yet vital question: ‘Are you okay?’ The initiative encourages individuals to reach out to family, friends, and colleagues, sparking conversations about mental health and emotional wellbeing.

What is R U OK Day?

The inception of R U OK Day dates back to 2009, when it was founded by Gavin Larkin, an Australian advertising executive. The inspiration for the movement came from Gavin’s personal experience and the profound loss he faced. In 1995, Gavin’s father, Barry Larkin, tragically took his own life. The devastating event left Gavin grappling with grief and regret, wishing he had asked his father a simple question that could have made all the difference: ‘Are you okay?’

Driven by his desire to prevent others from enduring the same heartache, Gavin embarked on a mission to create a platform that encouraged meaningful conversations about mental health. He believed that by starting conversations and genuinely listening to one another, lives could be saved.

Everyday is R U OK Day

While R U OK Day is a designated date to promote mental health conversations, its significance extends far beyond a single day. It serves as a crucial reminder to check up on people’s emotional wellbeing throughout the entire year. Mental health issues are not confined to specific dates or events; they affect individuals every day.

The day highlights the importance of fostering a culture of care, empathy, and open communication. It encourages people to be more attentive to their loved ones’ struggles, be they visible or hidden. By making R U OK Day a year-round commitment, the movement strives to create a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their burdens and seeking help when needed.

How to ask and listen

While bringing up the topic of mental health can be difficult, asking ‘Are you ok?’ is a powerful way to show care and support for someone going through a tough time.

The theme for 2023’s R U OK Day is ‘I’m here to hear’, which serves as an opportunity for all of us to be active listeners and offer genuine support to those around us. By embracing the theme ‘I’m here to hear,’ we encourage open conversations about mental health, fostering a safe and understanding environment where individuals feel empowered to share their struggles.

Here are some steps to help you approach this conversation with empathy and sensitivity:

Choose the right time and place: Find a suitable and private setting to have the conversation. Avoid crowded or noisy spaces, as you want the person to feel comfortable and heard.

Express your concern: Start by expressing genuine concern for the person’s well-being. Be warm and empathetic in your approach, letting them know that you’re there to listen and support without judgment.

Ask open-ended questions: Encourage the person to talk openly about how they’re feeling. Ask open-ended questions like, “How have you been doing lately?” or “Is there something on your mind that you’d like to talk about?”

Actively listen: Listening is key to a successful ‘R U OK’ conversation. Give the person your full attention and validate their feelings. Avoid interrupting or rushing to provide solutions.

Validate their feelings: After they share their thoughts and emotions, reflect back on what they’ve said to show that you understand. Offer validation by acknowledging their feelings, such as saying, “It sounds like you’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately.”

Encourage them to seek support: Let the person know that it’s okay to ask for help and that they don’t have to face their challenges alone. Suggest available resources, such as professional counselling or your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Check-in and follow up: Offer ongoing support by checking in with the person regularly. Let them know that you care about their wellbeing and that you’re there to lend a listening ear whenever they need it.

Remember, it’s essential to approach these conversations with sensitivity and compassion. Not everyone may be ready to open up immediately, and that’s okay. Your support and willingness to listen can be enough to make a difference.

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