“R U OK?” Day. That one day in September where a campaign asks you to ask you friends & loved ones, “Are you OK?”. This is an important question, and I believe it’s one of the hardest things you can ask, or be asked.
The thing is, we ask this question to our colleagues every day of the week. So, why is this different?
Why Is “R U OK?” day important?
Well, if you’re going to ask someone how they are, you need to be prepared to receive an answer you may be uncomfortable & perhaps ill equipped to respond to.
I’m someone that struggles with my mental health, and I’ve been asked if I’m OK many, MANY times. Usually by family and colleagues. Never have I given an honest answer.
You see, the worst thing about battling mental health issues is that it’s difficult to admit that you have a problem. Nobody wants to admit that they’re not coping, that they’re weak, that they’re unwell.
Asking for help is the last thing I did, and it was also the best.
How to have an R U OK? conversation
So, now that you know I have mental health issues, here is some insight I can give you on how to ask the question & a possible response.
You: Hey, I read your blog post. How are you doing?
Me: Oh, cool. Yeah, I’m alright thanks. No complaints.
You: Nice! So, just making sure, are you actually OK? You wrote about how admitting to needing help is hard. I’m not trying to doubt you & make you think there must be something wrong, just trying to be a better human.
Me: Ah yup, thanks. No really, I’m doing well at the moment. I’ve been selfish and stopped some bad habits like substance abuse, kicked some people out of my life that weren’t helping, getting regular exercise and seeing a good psychologist. Meds also help. There’s a lot more to it, but yeah, I’m doing better than I ever have been.
You: Wow… that sounds like a lot to deal with. I don’t know how you do it.
Me: Yeah, some days I think the same thing… but I’m getting there. Explains a lot, huh. How some days I’m pissed off when it’s a quiet day, and happier when it’s busy. Having nothing to do means there’s only one thing to do. Think. That’s not always a good idea. Hence substance abuse to numb things. I won’t lie, it’s fucking hard. Add in a healthy dose of background anxiety that doesn’t go away no matter what I do…
You: Fuck… I had no idea. Well, I’m glad everything is going OK at the moment. But if it’s not, and you need someone to help, just let me know. I don’t know how I can help, but if you tell me I’ll give it a go.
Me: Yep, will do. Thanks 🙂
That’s the sort of conversation people like me wish they could have with people like you. But we don’t, because we’re scared of letting our guard down. Sharing something we shouldn’t which might compromise your view of us.
So, when R U OK? day rocks around, be prepared to get an honest answer. Take it at face value, because maybe today it’s just too hard to tell my story. Maybe I need to tell myself that I’m OK, because telling myself that I’m not just makes things harder.
And if you think that maybe I’m not being honest, just make a mental note to ask again later. Because it’s nice to know that someone cares.
You’re not alone
You’re not alone in this either. If you think something might be up and you’re not sure how to ask, ask someone else for assistance. Or ask in a different way.
Perhaps sending an impersonal email is better than a hallway conversation, because I can read and digest your question and reply when I’m ready, rather than being put on the spot & potentially having a public breakdown. Or you could contact HR, ask them for tips on how to approach someone.
There are many points of contact for both you & I, we just need to pluck up the courage to make that first step.