Let’s talk

couple therapy picture

Let’s talk

As R U OK? Day approaches, you’ll no doubt hear just how powerful and important it is to reach out to someone in your life who’s been a little off. It’s a simple question – how are you, really? – but one we tend to avoid asking. If you’re not sure how to broach the topic, here’s some advice.

Don’t be scared to ask

Negative emotions make us uncomfortable, so it’s not surprising that we do what we can to avoid them. For those suffering with depression, those feelings are unavoidable, so being offered a safe space to talk can be a relief.

If you’re worried you’ll make things worse for your friend, don’t be – asking how they’re feeling is a win-win. If they say they’re okay, you can let them know that you’re always there to talk if they need it. And if they share that they’ve been struggling, simply listening and showing that you care will be a huge help. 

Do keep it casual

If you want to have the talk, you don’t have to stage an intervention! Try meeting your friend for a walk and mentioning that you’ve noticed they haven’t seemed themselves lately. A phone chat or a coffee together could be a good plan too – just make sure it’s relatively private and you have time to talk (and listen) for a while.

Don’t expect to have all the answers

It’s okay if you don’t have the solution to your friend’s problem. You don’t have to fix things for them – instead, the most helpful thing you can do is listen. Let them know that you take them seriously, that what they’re going through sounds tough, and you’ll keep their experience confidential. It might be a good move to gently encourage them to seek professional support, especially if they’ve been feeling really low for more than two weeks.

Do follow up

Maybe your friend wasn’t ready to talk when you approached them, and that’s okay. Make a mental note to follow up with them in a week or two and see how they’re going. If they have opened up, it’s just as important to check in. Stay in touch, and don’t judge them if their situation hasn’t changed – it might take a while for the clouds to lift. Don’t underestimate the power of being a sounding board for someone in need.

Not sure how to reach out?

If you’re struggling with life it can really help to talk about it with someone – but making that move can feel really overwhelming. First up, know that asking for help doesn’t make you weak – we all need a little support sometimes.

One place to start might be talking to a psychologist, who can offer valuable support in a confidential environment. You could also try chatting in an online forum like the one at Beyond Blue. Or, if there’s someone in your life who you feel comfortable talking to, ask them if they have time for a chat and let them know how you’re feeling. You might be surprised just how ready and willing they are to support you.

For more advice on starting a conversation about mental health, visit ruok.org.au

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