R U OK? Day 365 Days Of The Year
People struggle with mental health issues 365 days per year. People we love, people we work with, people we know. The national focus on mental health issues achieved through R U OK? Day each year helps remind us to check in with family, friends and colleagues, to show support and ask if they are okay when we notice something is not right. To a sufferer of mental health issues, a single day is not enough. To be even more effective, R U OK? needs to be as common and as natural as saying ‘how was your day?’ or ‘is there anything I can do to help?’, questions we feel comfortable using in daily conversation.
R U OK? Day in September, Mental Health Month in October and Stress Down Day in July are all wonderful opportunities to educate and create awareness around mindfulness and good mental health. Howevermental health is an ongoing challenge that impacts many people at some stage in their lives. Having the support of family, friends and colleagues is vital for anyone suffering with a mental health issue. By showing support all year round, particularly to employees that may be experiencing anxiety or depression, we can ensure that our focus is not restricted to a single day, week or month.
Asking someone, ‘R U OK?’ is the start of a conversation. For workplace managers or colleagues, what is vitally important is the follow up. Having reached out and connected with someone suffering a mental illness it is essential to then provide the support necessary for better health and to keep monitoring for signs of improvement or ongoing issues.
Although asking someone, R U OK? is the first critical step, it can still be challenging for managers or colleagues to know how to support employees with mental health issues or how they can continue a sensitive conversation once started. Here are some tips to help open that conversation, provide that much needed guidance or support and continue the momentum through to a positive outcome.
- Know your team
Changes in behaviour, personal appearance or routine can be indicators that an employee is going through some emotional difficulty and finding it hard to cope. Be vigilant for the signs of stress or mental illness.
- Approach the person
Initially you may think changes in an employee’s life are personal and therefore you should not become involved. A simple conversationin-confidence, done with discretion and sensitivity, gives that person an opportunity to ask for help if they feel ready.
- Explain why you are having this discussion with them
Be clear that you are concerned about the employee. Give specific examples of the observed changes in behaviour.
- R U OK?
After stating the observed behaviour and expressing concern, ask clearly and directly, “Are you okay?”
Listen to what the person is saying and also listen for how they are feeling. Do not interrupt. At the end, summarise what you have heard to check that your understanding is correct.
- Do not go into solution mode
It is not helpful to ‘fix’ the problem or to give solutions, as this may make the employee feel judged or criticised and sometimes can make the situation worse.
- You do not need to counsel the person
If you are not a counsellor or psychologist you should not try to take on that role for the person. You can suggest that professional help is needed and available.
- Encourage the person to take action
Point the person in the right direction, either the HR department, EAP provider or their GP. You may have to support the person to seek help by going with them to HR, or make an appointment for them with the EAP or their GP and possibly accompany them to the appointment.
- Ask what way you can assist
Allow the person the opportunity to explain what would be helpful for them. For some it might be extra time to do their work or time off for appointments. There could be other reasonable adjustments that are possible.
- Follow up
Don’t just leave it there; it is very important to check in with the employee regularly to see if they are OK.