Suicide Awareness Month: The Continuing Conversation of Mental Health
September is Suicide Prevention Month and on the 10th Australia celebrates nationwide R U OK? movement.
What is R U OKAY, anyway?
It is a campaign lead by Australian mental health advocates that is aimed at shedding light on suicide and the role played by social connection in preventing it. Based on the title, R U OK? encourages us to check in on our friends for they might be suffering a silent battle in their heads. Because others’ thoughts are much harder to understand, we are prompted by the campaign to make asking our friends if they are okay a habit.
But the conversation doesn’t stop there.
This year’s theme is “There’s more to say after R U OK?”; a reminder that we can do more to support our loved ones during their darkest times. While there are different ways to express support, R U OK? provided a four-step guide on how to carry it out with compassion in mind. With this, we felt inclined to share with you our take on how to keep the conversation going.
Ask. Start by initiating a chat with your friend. Ask them how they are doing lately. If a major life event such as a divorce, loss of a family member or unemployment has recently occurred, ask them how they feel about it.
Listen. Assure them that you’re willing to listen and that you are a safe space for their thoughts and feelings. Then, be exactly that. Listen to them without any judgment. You don’t need to say anything nor feel pressured to give advice. All you need to do is be with them at that very moment physically and emotionally.
Encourage. Your listening helps, but there also needs to be encouragement that drives them to find actionable steps for their mental health problems. Of course, getting professional support is the ultimate goal, but if your friend is not ready for that yet, you can offer your time to accompany them in picking up old hobbies or sorting their thoughts until they decide to seek psychological care.
Check in. You will not always be there for them in person, but you can be with them digitally. With the different messaging and social media platforms nowadays, it would be impossible not to reach them. Take a few minutes every week (or day if you can) to send them a quick “how are you” text. Ask how they have been feeling since your last chat and if they need more of your support.
One does not need to be an expert in mental health to offer support, but it does help to have a little know-how on the proper way to do so.
R U OK? provided a digital guide of the many phrases you can use when asking, listening, encouraging, and checking in on your emotionally vulnerable loved ones.
We can also help you improve the way you approach mental health crises through our Mental Health First Aid Training. Visit MHFA Training for more information.