RUOK? A conversation that could save a life!

From The Country Web Number 57 Spring 2012. Information sourced from 

Keeping in touch with others is crucial for our health and wellbeing. Having regular, meaningful conversations is simple. Here’s some pointers to help you connect with someone you think may be doing it tough.

Ask R U OK?
Start a general conversation somewhere private. Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language. Ask open-ended questions to discuss concerns based on their behaviour.

Listen without judgement
Guide the conversation with caring questions. The more they talk the better—a problem shared is a problem halved. Don’t rush to solve problems for them. It’s better to have a full understanding of the issues. Listen without judging them as lazy or weak. They’re trying to cope as best they can. Don’t give advice like ‘cheer up’ or ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘you’ll be right mate’. It is important to let them know that it’s good they’re discussing it.

Encourage action
Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do. Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor. It is essential to follow-up. Nothing changes until someone acts.

Follow up
People who are struggling often find it difficult to take action so it’s important to follow-up on how they’re going. Put a note in your diary to call them in a week or sooner if they’re desperate. Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step and see someone.

Dealing with denial?
If they deny the problem, don’t criticise them. Acknowledge they’re  not ready to talk. Say you’re still concerned and ask if you can enquire again next week if there is no improvement.

If you think the person is considering suicide?
If you’re worried that someone you know is doing it tough or is thinking about suicide, it’s important that you give that person an opportunity to talk about it. Find a quiet and private space to ask them how they’re feeling and whether they’ve had thoughts about suicide. Speak in a calm, confident and non-judgmental manner to help them feel supported and reassured.

If someone says they’re thinking about suicide, it’s important you take it seriously. Tell them you care about them and you want to help. Don’t become agitated, angry or upset. Explain that thoughts of suicide are common and don’t have to be acted upon.

It’s also essential to determine whether they have formulated a plan to take their life. Ask if they’ve decided how they will kill themselves or if they’ve begun to take steps to end their life. If they have, it is critical that you do NOT leave them alone and do NOT use guilt or threats to prevent suicide. Get immediate professional help or call emergency helplines such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 for advice and support.

For more information and a list of support agencies see:

About nswrwn

NSW Rural Women’s Network is a government program working in innovative ways to promote leadership and action on rural women’s issues. The RWN team is dedicated to connecting and exchanging information with women and stakeholders in rural, regional and remote communities.
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