What to do when someone’s not ‘OK’

bshadminAll Blog Content, Mental Health

R U OK? is a mental health charity that encourages people to ask their family, friends, colleagues and peers if they are ‘OK’ to start a mental health conversation. Asking someone if they’re okay is a simple way to reach out to people who may need support; but before you ask the question, you need to know how to respond if someone does need help.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if someone’s not ‘OK’:


  • Talk it out. Encourage the person to articulate how they are feeling or what is bothering them. Try to listen non-judgementally and respond in a way that is both supportive and genuine, as this will put you both more at ease.
  • Ask how you can help. Every person’s recovery is unique and there might be something specific that you can do to support the individual person. Simply accompanying someone to their first appointment can be all the support they need to feel accepted and know that they’re not alone.
  • Don’t pretend to be an expert. Don’t feel obliged to ‘fix’ the situation. Your role is to show your support, listen, and if possible, help them decide on their next step towards feeling better. If you don’t know what to say or how to handle the situation, refer them onto a professional who can help: https://www.ruok.org.au/findhelp.
  • Suggest further help. If the person seems distressed or has been feeling low for some time, it’s important to let them know about the professional help that they can access. Visit the R U OK? website for a directory of free services and information sources that you can recommend.
  • Follow up on how they are going. After your initial conversation, be sure to give them a call or catch up in person to see how they are. Ongoing contact will demonstrate your genuine care and will also help to keep them on track; or provide an opportunity for intervention if things get worse.
  • Consider your own mental health. It can be difficult and distressing to hear that someone you care about is not doing well. Be sure to take care of yourself and consider talking through your experience with a friend or professional if necessary.

What if they don’t want help? You can’t force anyone to seek help, even if you think they need it. If someone is willing to open up to you but is not willing to seek further help, stay connected and realise that you are part of their support team. Remember that talking about mental health issues is okay and won’t make things worse for the person. It’s important to remain supportive in this situation, validate the person, and continue to encourage professional help as an option. People often take time to acknowledge and accept that something is wrong, so try to be patient.

For more guidance on starting the conversation, download this Tip Sheet from the R U OK? website.

Black Swan Health offers a range of services to support you and the people you care about when they’re not feeling ‘OK’, including:

For more information on any of these services, contact us today.