How to ask those three little words: R U OK?

A simple question can change somebody’s life.

Maybe even save it. 

September 14 is national R U OK? Day and Australians are being asked to have regular, meaningful conversations with others.

If you think something is worrying a workmate, a family member or a friend, start a conversation to find out if they’re OK.

How to ask 'Are you OK?'

Ask the question: Are you OK?

Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach. ​Help them open up by asking questions like "How are you going?" or "What’s been happening?"  

If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them. Tell them you’re still concerned about changes in their behaviour and you care about them. Avoid a confrontation. You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?” ​

Listen without judgement

Take what they say seriously and don't interrupt or rush the conversation. Don’t judge their experiences or reactions but acknowledge that things seem tough for them.

If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence. Encourage them to explain: "How are you feeling about that?" or "How long have you felt that way?"

Show that you've listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly. 

Encourage action

Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”

Ask: “How would you like me to support you?"

Ask: “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”

You could say: "When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this... You might find it useful too."

If they've been feeling really down for more than two weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. You could say, "It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I'm happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's 2017 R U OK? Day address.

Check in

Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they're really struggling, follow up with them sooner.

You could say: “I've been thinking of you and wanted to know how you've been going since we last chatted”.

Ask if they've found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven't done anything, don't judge them. They might just need someone to listen to them for the moment.

Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference. 

For help, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14