A reminder to ask boys the question R U OK?

One simple question is all it takes to start a conversation which could change a boy’s life.

R U OK? Day is tomorrow, and Australians are being encouraged to remember to check in with friends, family or colleagues. The annual event has many aims, including highlighting the importance of dealing with mental health issues, breaking stigma attached to mental health and building networks of support in communities to assist those who need help.

Though it may be a simple question in theory, asking someone you think may have some underlying mental health issues can be confronting and daunting to face the reality of helping them deal with the situation, listening to their thoughts and feelings, and finding necessary help for them to move forward.

R U OK? Day offers tips to help prepare, start and keep conversations going to provide support for those facing depression, anxiety and other – at times debilitating – mental health issues.

The organisation breaks the conversation process into four steps;

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check in

Friends and family may notice a boy/man in their lives isn’t behaving as he normally would – he is more agitated, withdrawn – gut instinct plays a key role in this situation, if you feel something is not right with them, prepare yourself or seek an appropriate person to ask the person if they are OK.

The first step is to decide whether you are the right person to ask the question; are you in the right headspace, are you prepared for the answer which may be said and have I picked my moment?

Deciding whether you believe the boy/man in question will be comfortable responding to you is key; along with acknowledging there will be no “easy fix” to the answer and you will not be able to “fix” everything for the boy/man.

Finding the right time to ask, such as on a drive or walk together, or during another activity the two of you are doing together without anyone else around, may be appropriate.

R U OK? Day encourages question askers to try to be friendly, yet concerned, in their approach to asking the person how they are going.

“Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like ‘You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?’” their website includes.

If they say nothing is wrong, avoid confrontation but tell them of your concerns as to why you are asking them how they are and offer to have a chat with them another time/any time they want to talk, or offer to help them find someone else to speak to.

If the boy/man wants to talk – listen. Attentively and silently, do not interrupt their train of thought or try to rush them through their feelings. Encourage them to explore ways to get help, whether it’s by “checking in” with you every few days, using past programs or initiatives which have helped previously in their situation, or speaking to a GP or other agency.

Finally, remember to check in and stay engaged with the boy/man to keep track of how they are going managing their issues, if they are receiving the appropriate help and for them to know you are there when/if needed.

If you have concerns and feel issues to be dealt with are too much to deal with alone or among family please contact a support agency such as LifeLine, your GP or local emergency department.

For more information about R U OK? Day click here.