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How to ask "Are you okay?"

R U OK? Day is a national day of action where we are reminded the importance of checking-in with the people in our lives who may be struggling, by asking the question "Are you okay?"

R U OK? Day reminds us all that one conversation has the power to change a life. Listening and giving someone your time might be just what they need to help them through. But how do you ask someone if they are okay, and how do you respond if someone says they aren't?

If you've got a feeling that someone you care about is struggling, have noticed changes in how they behave, or perhaps they just don't seem to be their usual self, you can start a conversation by commenting on the changes you've noticed and encouraging them to open up. If they aren't okay, we've shared some tips below on how to navigate the conversation and help them to feel supported. If they are okay, you've shown that person that you care enough to check in.

Before you ask

Before checking in with others, it's a good idea to check in with yourself. You need to be present and prepared to be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone. Try asking yourself the following questions:

Am I in a good headspace?

Am I willing and able to listen mindfully?

Am I willing and able to give this the time it needs?

Are we both going to be comfortable?

Are we both able to be fully present and free from distractions?

Be prepared

It's important to prepare yourself that when asking someone "Are you okay?", their answer might be "No, I'm not."

If that's the case, you need to understand that you can't 'fix' someone's problems or change how they feel, but you can listen, offer support, and encourage action.

It's also important to remember that the person you're checking in with might not be ready to talk, or they just might not want to talk, and that is okay. You can respond by letting them know that you're here for them if they change their mind, or by encouraging them to reach out to someone they'd feel more comfortable talking to.

How to ask the question

  • Ask "Are you okay?"

  • Listen mindfully and offer support

  • Encourage action

  • Check in

When someone says they aren't okay

  • Ask open ended questions

  • Encourage them to explain how they're feeling

  • Offer empathy and acknowledge how they're feeling

  • Listen mindfully

  • Ask "How can I support you?" or "What can I do to help?

  • Encourage them to seek professional help if appropriate

When to talk to a professional

Some conversations are too big for family and friends to take on alone. If someone’s been really low for more than 2 weeks, or is at risk, you can offer to help them find a mental health professional to talk to, or encourage them to call a 24/7 support service.

Check in

If someone is struggling, checking in with them frequently can not only encourage them to open up, but also remind them that you care. You can check in by asking if they found a way to manage the situation they were going through, or by sending a message like "I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted." Genuine care, empathy and concern can make all the difference.

Reaching out to a support service

There are a number of 24 hour support services available to help those who are struggling, and many offer advice and support for friends and family as well. If you or someone you know are struggling, in crisis, or are in need of urgent support, contact one of the below support numbers.

Emergency - 000

Lifeline - 13 11 14

1800 RESPECT - 1800 55 1800

Mensline - 1300 789 978

QLife - 1800 184 527

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