Got a feeling that someone you know or care about isn’t behaving as they normally would? Perhaps they seem out of sorts? More agitated or withdrawn? Or they’re just not themselves. Trust that gut instinct and act on it.

R U OK? is a harm prevention charity that encourages people to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives.

By starting a conversation and commenting on the changes you’ve noticed, you could help that family member, friend or workmate open up. If they say they are not ok, you can follow the conversation steps to show them they’re supported and help them find strategies to better manage the load. If they are ok, that person will know you’re someone who cares enough to ask.

The media regularly reports on celebrities, sporting stars and other well knowns who are suffering mental health issues, often involving suicide. However, the average Joe or Jill are just statistics, and it’s the latest statistics that are staggering. In 2020 in Australia there were 3139 reported suicides (men: 2,384 women: 75). On average this represents eight Australians dying from suicide every day with the majority in the 15-44 age bracket.

The most common causes are broken relationships, natural disasters, helplessness and addiction. Self-harming and attempted suicides exceeded 65,000 in 2020 and these were only the reported ones.

RUOK Day is a nationally recognised day held to make us more aware of potential signs of self harm and what actions to take. No qualifications are needed – you do not need to be an expert to ask “ ARE YOU OK?“ Try practicing on friends or family. It’s not hard!

There are 4 basic steps to follow to help if you think someone might need a hand.


  • Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach.
  • Help them open up by asking questions like “How are you going?” or “What’s been happening?”
  • Mention specific things that have made you concerned for them, like “You seem less chatty than usual. How are you going?”

If they don’t want to talk, don’t criticise them

  • Tell them you’re concerned about changes in their behavior and you care about them.
  • Avoid a confrontation
  • You could say: “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “Is there someone else you’d rather talk to?”


  • Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation.
  • Don’t judge their experiences or reaction but acknowledge that things seem tough for them.
  • If they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence.
  • Encourage then to explain: “How are you feeling about that?” or “How long have you felt that way?”
  • Show that you’ve listened by repeating back what you’ve heard (in your own words) and ask if you have understood them properly.


  • Ask: “What have you done in the past to manage similar situations?”
  • Ask: “How would you like me to support you?”
  • Ask: “What’s something you can do for yourself right now? Something that’s enjoyable or relaxing?”
  • You could say “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this….. You might find it useful too.”
  • If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, encourage them to see a health professional. You could say, “It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you.  I’m happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”
  • Be positive about the role of professionals in getting through tough times.


  • Pop a reminder in your diary to call them in a couple of weeks. If they’re really struggling, follow up with them sooner.
  • You could say: “I’ve been thinking of you and wanted to know how you’ve been going since we last chatted.”
  • Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them.  They might just need someone to listen to them for the moment.
  • Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.


Some conversations are too big for family and friends to take on alone.  If someone’s been really low for more than two weeks – or is at risk – please contact a professional as soon as you can. Find out more at