The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:36): I rise today to speak about R U OK? Day that was commemorated last Thursday, 13 September. I am very pleased about the increased popularity of this day and I acknowledge its importance in suicide prevention. R U OK? Day reminds us of the importance of reaching out to others and starting a conversation. It encourages people to make meaningful connections with others and to support anyone struggling with life's challenges. Importantly, it also recognises that you do not have to be a trained professional to make a difference. An important conversation can be started with a simple question.
These conversations about mental health can be difficult but they are important discussions to have and can have a significant effect on a person who is struggling with their mental health. Whilst it is important to start a conversation, it is equally as important to know what to do if a person responds that they are not okay.
The R U OK? organisation provides resources to inform people about how to ask someone if they are okay and what to do after asking this. Without this knowledge, people may avoid starting a conversation for fear that they will say the wrong thing and make the situation worse. Today, my focus is on what to do after asking the initial question.
When asking the question, 'Are you okay?' early intervention is always best rather than waiting for a person to be in crisis. It is important to allow plenty of time and to choose a setting where the person will be comfortable. It is important to listen carefully and without judgement to everything they have to say. This step may seem very straightforward, but people often underestimate the power of listening. Instinctively, people want to interrupt to push someone's worries away. They think this is helpful because they are being positive but it can often make a person feel like what they are going through is not important. It can also be tempting to interrupt moments of silence; although silence can be uncomfortable, it is crucial to allow the person enough time to gather their thoughts to express what they are going through. A person's willingness to listen can help restore hope.
Once the person has finished what they would like to share, collaboratively address how to get help by suggesting talking to a trained health professional, a friend or family member. Sometimes people need encouragement to do this, so it helps to let them know that you will support them during this process. It is often helpful to offer to accompany the person to find help as this can be very overwhelming.
It is important to check in on them to let them know that you have been thinking of them and to see how they have been. This demonstrates genuine care and interest in the person's wellbeing.
We are all capable of starting a conversation, and this is something that can change a life. 'Are you okay?' is more than a question; it is an act of compassion that demonstrates a willingness to support someone. I implore everyone to make meaningful connections with the people around them and to start a conversation by asking, 'Are you okay?'