Tomorrow is R U Ok day in Australia. A day that symbolises the importance of wellbeing and mental health with the premise that everyone checks in with those in their life, to see if they are OK.
It’s a nice thought but in all honesty that is all it is, because the reality is we should be checking in on those we care about often. We shouldn’t need some annual day to remind us to reach out. Caring, kind and compassionate people are always checking in on those they care about. R U Ok day is just one day and whilst it’s a lovely reminder, we as humans know we should be doing more.
So we message friends and family. We make obligatory posts on social media. We ask “R U Ok” most people will say “yes I’m ok”, because the truth is most people do not ask this question to actually hear someone’s pain. They ask it hoping to hear all is well and they can get on with their day. Those in pain know most people really don’t want to know that they are actually not OK, so they say what the asker wants to hear.
The vast majority of us do not create a safe space for another to speak of their pain. The vast majority of us feel we have the advice to help another. The vast majority of us do not actively listen but rather listen to respond.
The vast majority of us would rather feel comfortable than to sit with another in their pain.
This R U Ok day I’m setting a challenge. The challenge is to pick up the phone to someone you know has been struggling of late. We all know of someone, especially in this current Australian COVID clusterf*ck. Pick up the phone and say:
- Today is R U Ok day and I just want to check in on how you are feeling. I want you to know it’s a safe space and there’s absolutely no judgement. I want you to feel comfortable talking to me and I’m here to listen. Nothing you say will change our relationship/friendship. It’s important that you know you are allowed to feel however you are feeling. Your feelings are valid. Your feelings are important. I am free to listen and support you however you need to be supported. I am here for you.
- Once the call ends, check in on them regularly and ensure they are comfortable in reaching out to you. Don’t pretend to know what they are going through and don’t offer advice but rather empower them. Build on their strengths.
If we are serious about ensuring those in our lives R Ok then let’s really get uncomfortable and be prepared to hear some hard stuff. Be prepared to just listen with compassion and empathy.
If they are in a dark place don’t be scared to ask the question “are you having suicidal thoughts?” It’s a bloody hard question to ask but if they are, we need to ensure they are safe. We need to ensure they haven’t acted on these thoughts or have a plan in place. We need to make a safe space for people to talk about suicide. Yes it’s a frightening subject and it can induce fear and panic in us, but if we dismiss their pain we are doing the greatest disservice to them and again we say our own comfort is more important than another’s pain.
Let’s make this years R U Ok day more than just a token check in. A token gesture. Not everyone is OK so if you’re going to ask the question be prepared to listen and HEAR the answer. If you don’t have the time, courage or inclination to actually support someone if they say they are not OK, please don’t ask the question to start with.
If you are going to ask the question do so with authenticity and genuine care. Do so because you know just listening and validating another’s pain can often be enough to talk them off the ledge that day. It doesn’t matter if you understand their pain or even if to you it doesn’t seem a big deal, to them it’s traumatic.
So if you are going to ask the question please mean it.
“One of the most sincere forms of respect, is actually listening to what another has to say”.