R U OK? How to have a conversation about mental health
3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. This means that between your friends, family, peers and co-workers, it’s likely someone close to you could benefit from a ‘how are you?’ or an ‘R U OK?’.
We all like to think we are ‘there’ day to day for the people close to us, but beyond asking ‘R U OK?’ on 13 September, how do we start the conversation about how someone actually is?
Talking to someone you are worried about: Ask. Listen. Encourage action. Check in.
Bringing up the topic of someone’s mental health can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you think they might be struggling. Don’t underestimate how important ‘just being there’ can be for someone. R U OK has some helpful tips to guide you in starting the conversation.
Getting ready to ask
Before you can look out for others, you need to look out for yourself. And that’s okay. Ask yourself:
- Am I ready? – Think about whether you’re in the right headspace to have the conversation.
- Am I prepared? – Consider that the person may say they are not okay when asked how they’re going.
- Have I picked my moment? – Think about the location of the conversation and whether it is somewhere private and comfortable.
How to ask
Be relaxed, friendly and concerned in your approach. Mention that you have noticed specific changes in them, this shows that you care. Help them open up by asking open-ended questions like ‘What’s been happening for you?’ If they don’t want to talk, don’t push them. Tell them you’re still concerned and offer for them to call you if they change their mind and feel ready to chat. Or ask if there is someone else they would rather talk to.
Listen without judgment
Take what they say seriously and don’t interrupt or rush the conversation. Don’t judge their experiences but acknowledge that things seem tough for them. Ask questions and encourage them to elaborate to ensure you’ve understood correctly: ‘How long have you felt that way?’
Ask them how they would like you to support them. If they’ve been feeling really down for more than 2 weeks, suggest: ‘It might be useful to link in with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find the right person.’ Remember that some conversations are too big for family and friends to take on alone.
Pop a reminder in your diary to check in with them again in a couple of weeks. 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 way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t be hard on them, feeling listened to might be all they need right now. Continue to stay in touch and be there for them.
Finding the right support
- beyondblue offer 24/7 phone support, online chat, email and community forums as well as links to professionals
- Lifeline Australia for crisis support
- For support finding your way through the health system in relation to mental health, the GMHBA Health Navigation line can provide members with guidance, referrals and location-based information
- Love apps? Check out our reviews of self-help and check-in apps.
What health insurance benefits are there for mental health conditions?
GMHBA offers different packages and extras policies that offer benefits for visits to a psychologist. The more comprehensive the policy, the higher the annual limit you are covered for. Inpatient psychiatric services are included under hospital cover in public hospitals as a private patient, or in private hospitals depending on your level of cover.
If you need assistance with any mental health concerns, whether via your hospital, or through counselling sessions, it is important to make sure your health insurance policy includes psychological cover so you have access to the best help possible. If you need help deciding what the best health insurance with psychology benefits or psychiatric services is for you, or want to know more about our hospital, extras or packages cover, we are here to answer any questions.
Check in on your mental health and get rewarded
Your mental health and wellbeing is about being able to function to your full potential in your daily roles such as at work and home, cope with daily stresses, be involved in your community, and generally enjoy life. It is natural to have highs and lows in your mental health in response to life’s challenges; this doesn’t necessarily mean you are experiencing a mental illness.
It’s important to take a moment to check in with yourself and reflect on these things. GMHBA AIA Vitality members can complete online mental wellbeing tests including stressor assessments, psychological wellbeing and social support. Plus, members can earn up to 1,500 points towards their status per calendar year (250 points per online assessment every six months).
GMHBA with AIA Vitality is your health insurance with a personalised, scientifically-backed program that supports you every day to make healthier lifestyle choices.
It shows you how healthy you are now, provides the tools to start improving your health right away, and offers great incentives to keep you motivated along your journey - including lifestyle rewards, and savings. Find out more today.