Checking in with friends and family

Amber May, Sale

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

NATIONAL RUOK (Are you okay) day, is a reminder to “1. Ask 2. Listen 3. Encourage action 4. Check-in” with each other.

With depression the leading cause of ill-health and disability worldwide, it’s important we use conversations to ask about how we really feel.

In the spirit of RUOK day, I’ll share three questions picked up in the community that help mental wellbeing slide naturally into conversation.

1: “What have you been enjoying lately?” is a staple question in my phone calls, new encounters, and conversations.

It’s enjoyable to remember what we are thankful for, and when I ask this I often see imagination in the other’s eyes as they relive moments from their week.

Not enjoying our usual activities or feeling overwhelmed are important signs to watch out for, so make space to listen and acknowledge your friend’s feelings if things seem tough.

If you make an offer to be there for someone, clearly state what you can and can’t do, for example “Hey I want to check in with you, maybe I can text every day and call later in the week – what works for you?”. This way you can show you are ready to listen and gain their confidence.

2: “How are your energy levels?”, is a second, a quick check-in that can help look out for signs of burnout. It gives us permission to acknowledge our fatigue and know somebody cares.

“How are you going?” or asking about sleep are other ways to look out for their health – and don’t let the other stop with “I’m okay”. Show you are not in a rush and encourage them to continue.

3: The last question, “I’d love to hear more about your life”, or “What is your story?”, creates space to learn about the experiences that shape us.

You will be surprised at how much there is still to learn from those closest to you, and learning about a different person’s formative experiences can remind us of our shared humanity.

Questions like these make every day RUOK day in our workplaces, homes and communities.

And right now, we are needed more than ever in our family and phone calls – so let’s use our conversations to really connect with others where they are.