Simply asking how someone is going can give them the space to open up, build trust and show them that it's normal to feel down sometimes. Find out how to ask "Are you OK?" because you never know the difference you could make.
On this page you will find:
- R U OK? tips to start the conversation
- information on supporting a student going through a tough time
- information on the importance of promoting mental health in schools
What is R U OK Day?
R U OK? Day is a day dedicated to inspiring and empowering everyone to meaningfully connect with the people around them by asking the simple question “Are you OK?" Asking the question is important, but knowing how to ask can be daunting. Try following the steps below to ask "Are you OK?" and know how to support someone in the case that they are struggling.
1. Ask the question, 'Are you OK?'
- Start a general conversation; preferably somewhere private.
- Build trust through good eye contact, open and relaxed body language.
- Ask open-ended questions to discuss concerns based on their behaviour.
Examples of how to start a conversation:
- 'What's been happening? How are you going?'
- 'I've noticed that... (e.g. you seem quite stressed and behind in your work.) What is going on for you at the moment?'
- 'You don't seem like yourself and I'm wondering are you ok? Is there anything that's contributing?'
2. Listen without judgement
- Guide the conversation with caring questions.
- Let them lead the conversation and give them time to reply. If they can, they should do most of the talking. Don't pressure them to talk more than they are comfortable with.
- Don't rush to solve problems for them. Instead, help them to see that solutions are available when they are ready to start exploring these.
- Listen to the person without judging them as lazy or weak. They're trying to cope as best they can.
- Don't give advice like 'cheer up' or 'pull yourself together' or 'you'll be right mate'.
- Let them know that discussing how they're coping is a good first step and that you're there for them.
3. Encourage action
- Summarise the issues and ask them what they plan to do.
- Encourage them to take one step, such as see their doctor.
- If they're not sure about where to go to for help, help them to get in contact with a local doctor or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or school counsellor.
Examples of how to encourage action:
- 'What do you think might help your situation?'
- 'Have you considered making an appointment with your doctor?'
- 'Would you like me to make an appointment?'
4. Follow up
People who are really struggling often find it difficult to take action. Therefore, it's very important to follow up on how they are going. Put a note in your diary to call them in one week. If they are desperate, follow up with them sooner. Ask if they have managed to take that first step and see someone. If they didn't find this experience helpful, urge them to try a different professional they trust. There's someone out there who can help them.
Examples of how to follow up:
- 'How are things going? Did you speak with your doctor?'
- 'What did they suggest? What did you think of their advice?'
- 'You've had a busy time. Would you like me to make the appointment?'
Supporting a student going through a tough time
As teachers, you often know when young people are going through a tough time. Sometimes being the person that someone turns to can become a burden. When students confide in you, naturally you want to do all you can to help them. But sometimes it's hard to know what to say, how to help, or who to turn to for advice. So here are some key messages to remember in order to look after the student, but also look after yourself.
- Show you care and give them time and attention. Often students don't need anything more than someone who is willing to just be there for them. Having a trusted adult that they can talk to is an important protective factor.
- Be yourself and be prepared to listen and understand what is happening to the student.
- Be non-judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting. The student may be reluctant to talk about their problem because they don't want to upset anyone, but they need to know they're doing the right thing by talking to someone.
- Know how and when to go to others for help. Encourage the student to seek help themselves. They may feel supported if you offer to go with them when they speak with a school counsellor or welfare advisor.
- If you feel out of your depth, don't try dealing with the situation alone. If you feel like the problem is serious or you have concerns for the student's welfare you must report it to your Principal. As mandatory reporters, teachers are required to report situations where they believe a young person is at risk of harm.
ReachOut.com is a key schools partner with R U OK? We are keen to help you, help your students to be confident in having regular conversations with friends and family. Find out how you can get your school involved in R U OK? Day.
Resources for schools and teachers