Fostering Mental Health First Aid Conversations and Saving Lives

Today marks R U OK? Day, a National Day that serves as a reminder that every day is an opportunity to ask, “Are you OK?” and engage in meaningful conversations that can profoundly impact someone’s life. R U OK? is a harm prevention charity committed to strengthening connections and encouraging conversations that provide essential support to those facing difficult times.

The R U OK? Story

R U OK? is an Australian non-profit suicide prevention organisation founded by Gavin Larkin in 2009. At its core is the simple yet powerful question, “R U OK?” This question forms the foundation of the organisation’s mission, advocating for people to engage in conversations with others, particularly those who may be experiencing emotional insecurity. R U OK? Day, held annually on the second Thursday of September, encourages Australians to connect with one another, address social isolation, and promote community cohesiveness.

The Mission

R U OK? works collaboratively with experts in suicide prevention and mental health, partnering with government departments, corporate leaders, educators, students, and community groups. Their activities align with the Australian Government’s LIFE Framework, emphasising the importance of intervening and providing support well before individuals reach a crisis point.

The theme for R U OK? Day 2023 is “I’m Here, To Hear.” While asking, “R U OK?” is the crucial first step, genuine listening is equally essential, especially in discussions related to Mental Health First Aid.

The Importance of R U OK? Day

Recent statistics reveal the critical need for initiatives like R U OK? Day, especially in the context of Mental Health First Aid. One in four young people does not feel adequately supported during difficult times, often due to a lack of close friends or a support network. Moreover, many young people hesitate to discuss mental health within social groups, fearing judgment or a negative impact on the atmosphere. Similarly, they may avoid talking about mental health with family members, citing a lack of understanding of their issues.

Starting the Mental Health First Aid Conversation – The R U OK? Way

When initiating an R U OK? conversation, particularly in the context of Mental Health First Aid, it’s crucial to approach it with sensitivity and empathy. Here are some key steps to follow:

Listen with an open mind.
Take their words seriously.
Don’t interrupt or rush the conversation.
If they need time to think, be patient.
Encourage them to explain.
Stay calm if they get upset; it’s not about you.
Let them know you’re asking out of concern.

Encouraging Mental Health First Aid Action

After asking, “R U OK?” it’s equally important to encourage Mental Health First Aid action:

Ask where they think they can go from here in terms of Mental Health First Aid.
Offer your support and ask how you can help
Suggest talking to family, a trusted friend, or a doctor, especially when Mental Health First Aid is needed.
Remind them you’re there if they need to chat about Mental Health.

Checking In

Remember to follow up in a few days to see how they are doing in the context of their Mental Health. Ask if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation, particularly if Mental Health First Aid is involved. If they haven’t taken any action related to Mental Health, keep encouraging them and remind them of your ongoing support. Understand that seeking professional help for mental health can take time, so reinforce the benefits of seeking assistance when they’re ready.

Seeking Professional Help and Mental Health First Aid

Encourage them to call Australian crisis lines and professionals if needed, especially when Mental Health First Aid is insufficient.

Lifeline – 13 11 14 or visit
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467 or visit
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 or visit
SANE Australia – 1800 18 SANE (7263) or visit