Health and wellbeing blogs

Why R U OK?Day is so important

Thursday 12 September 2019 is R U OK?Day, an annual reminder to check in with your family, friends and colleagues, inviting conversation to improve mental wellbeing. Suicide Prevention Nurse Educator Sian James explains why asking if someone is OK is so important.

St John of God Health Care R U Ok DayHave you ever heard the adage, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’?

Asking are you OK? gives a person who may be struggling with life, the opportunity to say what is on their mind, possibly for the very first time.

Some may keep their distress to themselves because there has never been anyone they felt they could confide in, or perhaps they feel their issue is too insignificant to bring up. 

Others may feel embarrassed or fear being a burden or being judged. Maybe, it’s just that no one has ever asked. 

Offering these three simple words, and taking the time to actively listen to the answer, opens up a line of communication that could save a life. 

The opportunity to simply talk about how they are feeling, without judgement, can make the person feel supported and less alone. 

It can also give the person a new perspective on the problems or situation. Things can appear differently when said aloud.

Talking to someone might even provide a solution, although this may not necessarily be what the person is looking for. 

In short, being able to vent shares the load, makes the challenges of life a little easier to deal with.

How to ask someone, R U OK?

Here are some tips to help you ask, R U OK:

  • Be present and listen to the person, it builds trust and shows you care
  • Move to an appropriate place and make time to talk. Too many people or distractions around may be inhibiting.
  • Don’t feel you need to fix a problem. Often the opportunity to talk is enough. You can offer advice, but only if invited to do so.
  • If someone is not ready to talk, don’t force them. Respect their decision, but leave the line of communication open in case they want to talk later.
  • Remember to check in again with the person, to see how things are going. 
Sian James Senior Nurse Educator

About the Author

Sian James is a senior nurse educator at St John of God Burwood and Richmond hospitals. She has a Masters of Science in Suicidology and provides suicide-prevention education at St John of God Health Care hospitals. She has previously been named the Catholic Health Australia Nurse of the Year for her work in this field.