Townsville Bulletin

I’m here for you



Tomorrow is R U OK? Day, an opportunit­y to start a conversati­on with family and friends who may be struggling with their mental health.

It’s about making sure the people you care for feel connected and supported, long before they are in crisis.

R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton says it’s important to be prepared to listen - not try to solve their problems.

She suggests taking a different approach for different people.


Newton says older Australian­s may worry that opening up about their mental health will make them a burden, or that friends, family and loved ones will treat them differentl­y, or feel that what they are experienci­ng is shameful or makes them appear weak.

“They might also be concerned about how mental ill health was treated in the past and not be aware of the advances that have been made,” she says.

“They might not even recognise that what they are feeling is to do with their mental health.”

R U OK? Conversati­on Guides advise if someone is uncomforta­ble opening up, it is important to respect their decision not to talk. • Don’t force them into it or criticise them

• Focus on things they are more comfortabl­e talking about – for example, say: “I know you’ve had trouble sleeping and concentrat­ing lately. Can we talk about that?” • Emphasise that you are asking because you care and are genuinely concerned

• Suggest they talk to someone they trust – for example, say: “You can always call me but is there someone else you would rather talk to?”

• Remind them you are always here if they want to chat.

“The act of reaching out to them might encourage them to reflect on how they’re doing and prompt them to talk,”

Newton says.


Young people are most likely to talk to friends or family members as the first step in seeking support when they are struggling.

When talking to a child or teenager about their mental health, R U OK?

Conversati­on Guides suggest first fi making ki sure you are in a good headspace so you are not distracted or stressed.

• Find a time and space that works for you both

• Don’t dive into heavy questions straight away, start with a general topic • Listen with an open mind, no judgment

• If there is silence, sit patiently with it – when someone shares for the first time, it can take a while to find the right words • Encourage action – for example, ask: “What do you think might help you right now?” n

Kailish Sarma, 18, lost one of his best friends while completing his HSC last year, and says he often gives his dad an automatic response when asked if he is OK.

But when his dad Kamal began repeating the question and asking “Are you really

OK?”, he began to open up.

“I think when my dad took that extra step to ask me that I took the time to give him a response because I realised he wasn’t asking me a normal, generic question,” Sarma says.


If the person you are worried about does not live with you, Newton advises finding a reason to visit, restrictio­ns permitting.

“Borrow something, return something, give them something, just drop in to see how they’re going or ask them to come over and give you a hand with something,” she says.

R U OK? Conversati­on Guides recommend that if they are unable to talk when you approach them, arrange another time to come back. Other tips: • Be relaxed and have a friendly approach

• Let them know you have noticed a change

• Don’t rush or interrupt – let them speak in their own time • Let them know you are asking because you are worried about them

The guides also recommend to follow up a few days later to see how your friend is doing.

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 ??  ?? Kailash Sarma, left, with his dad Kamal support R U OK ? Day.
Kailash Sarma, left, with his dad Kamal support R U OK ? Day.
 ??  ?? R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton.
R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton.

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