Are You Okay?
I'll be honest. I needed a few days break. A few days turned into two weeks. But. I think I'm back on board. Ready, focused and fuelled. First article back I want to draw attention to what today is.
You may have seen commercials for it. The one's with Simon Baker talking about talking.
Are You Okay? Day is a day promoted by the "R U Okay?" foundation. It's a non profit group, looking to increase awareness of depression and suicide risk. Founded by Gavin Larkin. After the suicide of his father, Gavin wanted to help create a world without suicide.
Suicide itself is a very touchy subject. We have groups that feel that people need to have the choice to leave by their own design. We also have groups that feel that in any case suicide is wrong. I'm not going to explain my perspective here, but what I would like to cover, is talking it out.
These days, in a world where we are more connected than we have ever been in history, we can find ourselves more isolated than when the technology didn't exist. And that can create problems of acceptance and self criticism, doubt, fear, growth etc. It can be a fast downward spiral. What needs to happen is that we all really should be more observant. That's what this all comes down to. We need to be a little less self absorbed and look at the people around us. Understand that everyone needs someone to talk it out with. Even the most introverted of us need someone at some point of time.
If someone you know is showing signs of depression, have a chat to them. Of course don't be upfront and say, "Hey Joe, you're looking depressed!" Sometimes just a good conversation is what's needed. And if that person is comfortable with you, they'll open up. When they do, be comforting, but not suffocating and understand that if its a big problem (like they're considering suicide or self harm) you need to take it seriously (at the bottom of this article, I'm attaching what R U OK? recommends to do)
If you, yourself have feelings of depression or anxiety. Initiate the conversation. Find someone you trust and explain to them what's on your mind. Just getting your worries out in the air can be the most relieving thing. You may even find that verbalising it will make it seem a lot less worse than what you have it in your head. Even write it down on a piece of paper(don't type it on a computer or tablet, there's an emotional disconnect with typing. Hand writing is much more raw and primal and forces you to think harder about what you're writing).
Making sure you have a good diet, exercise regularly, get good sleep and enough sun exposure everyday (at least 20 minutes for the average person) will help reduce the overwhelming feelings. Exercise in particular will help produce better levels of serotonin, which produces a euphoric feeling and converts to melatonin at night to give a good nights sleep, further increasing your chances of feeling good and less overwhelmed.
This aside, make sure your talking. Face to face. Feel the emotion. Understand what your peers, family and friends are saying. Actively listen. Be accepting.
Ask, "Are you okay?"
The quote below is from the R U OK? site, it describes steps suggested to asking the question:
1. Ask R U OK?
- Start a general conversation; preferably somewhere private
- Break the ice with a joke
- Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language
- Ask open–ended questions
‘What’s been happening? How are you going?’
‘I’ve noticed that... What’s going on for you at the moment?’
‘You don’t seem like yourself and I’m wondering are you ok? Is there anything that’s contributing?’
2. Listen without judgement
- Guide the conversation with caring questions and give them time to reply
- Don’t rush to solve problems for them
- Help them understand that solutions are available when they’re ready to start exploring these
‘How has that made you feel?’
‘How long have you felt this way?’
‘What do you think caused this reaction?’
3. Encourage action
- Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do
- Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor
- If they’re unsure about where to go to for help, help them to contact a local doctor or the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
‘What do you think might help your situation?’
‘Have you considered making an appointment with your doctor?’
‘Would you like me to make an appointment or come with you?’
4. Follow up
- Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they’re desperate, follow up sooner
- Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step and see someone
- If they didn’t find this experience helpful, urge them to try a different professional because there’s someone out there who can help them
‘How are things going? Did you speak with your doctor?’
‘What did they suggest? What did you think of their advice?’
‘You’ve had a busy time. Would you like me to make the appointment?’
Dealing with denial?
- If they deny the problem, don’t criticise them. Acknowledge they’re not ready to talk
- Say you’re still concerned about changes in their behavior and you care about them
- Ask if you can enquire again next week if there’s no improvement
- Avoid a confrontation with the person unless it’s necessary to prevent them hurting themselves or others
‘It’s ok that you don’t want to talk about it but please don’t hesitate to call me when you’re ready to discuss it.’
‘Can we meet up next week for a chat?’
‘Is there someone else you’d rather discuss this with?’
What if you think the person is considering suicide?
If you’re worried that someone you know is doing it tough or having suicidal thoughts, 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 any 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 that 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 that you determine whether they’ve formulated a plan to take their life. Ask if they’ve decided how they’ll kill themselves or if they’ve begun to take steps to end their life. If they have, it’s critical that you do NOT leave them alone and do NOT use guilt or threats to prevent suicide. Even if someone says they haven’t made a plan for suicide, you still need to take it seriously. Lack of a plan does NOT guarantee their safety. Get immediate professional help or call emergency help lines – such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 – for advice and support.
People who are thinking about suicide may signal their suicidal intentions to others. In other cases, there may be no warning. It’s therefore critical that you regularly engage with family, friends and colleagues and provide them with the attention and time to ask them how they’re going.