One thing I noticed when I told people about my mental illness was that the most common reply would be along the lines of ‘everyone feels the same’, or ‘people have it much worse than you’. And in some circumstances they are right, and I know that I am somewhat lucky, so don’t make me feel more guilty than I already am because every day I remind myself that I’m fortunate, but my anxiety and depression still hang around.
It is essential to know how to respond to someone when they open up their thoughts and feelings towards you so that they know you support them, and if you’re concerned about an individual to ensure that your approach isn’t attacking. Be prepared for what to say and do when the person replies that they aren’t well.
Choose the time and place carefully, a person wouldn’t want to speak on a private matter in a public and populated space, along with making certain you have enough time to discuss what needs to be discussed.
You can straight out ask a person if they are okay, but keep in mind there are more subtle phrases like ‘how have you been?’. In some cases, people notice a change in an individual, and you can begin the conversation along that concern. And don’t be shocked if your invite to a conversation is rejected as it can be confronting to the person. Instead, you can express your concern and put forward that your offer to talk is still open.
If a line of communication is created, it is essential to listen to the person’s emotions without voicing any negative remarks or judgements. The individual most likely feels extremely vulnerable, and sympathising towards them would show that you are actively listening, and understanding the situation. They are voicing everything they are saying for a reason, so take it critically, and let them say all that they want to say.
It would probably be necessary to promote change, either by referring a mental health expert or suggesting activities towards improving their state of mind. If you think the person is at high risk, or if the emotions have existent for a long period, seek professional assistance. Offering your support to an individual would also help in one’s confidence, letting them know that they aren’t alone. And lastly, keep on checking on them in the days and weeks after, let them know that you have been thinking of them, give them a call, send them a message, or take them out for the day.
The more that people start conversations about their mental health, the amount of stigma associated is decreased. We need to stop having these negative connections towards having a mental illness. We need to stop losing precious lives from mental illness, and we need to continue to ask each other ‘r u ok?’ not just one day a year, but every single day.
Information on R U OK? Day can be found on their website ruok.org.au