Going beyond RU Okay?

Rural and Remote Mental Health CEO Joe Hooper. Picture: Contributed

Laura Blackmore

Inviting people to speak up about their mental health is only one part of the process.

With the events of 2020, mental health is a hot topic issue and R U OK?Day is a great opportunity to check in with family and friends.

Starting discussions about mental well being is important – but those conversations don’t always begin and end with a question.

Rural and Remote Mental Health CEO Joe Hooper shared his tips for getting people talking about their mental health.

“It all starts with creating opportunities,” Mr Hooper explained.

“While some people might respond well to a phone call or text message, you might need to approach it differently with other people,” he said.

“With someone who’s more reserved, you might invite them to go fishing, for a drive, a round of golf, or walk, to kick the footy around, or even just meet up for a cup of coffee – any joint activity that encourages some time together.

“As we say in our trainings: if you choose the right time and place to start the conversation, you’re more likely to get a true answer.”

Reaching out and creating a comfortable space for people to talk openly is a vital first step.

If someone reveals they are struggling with their mental health, what happens next is critical.

Mr Hooper said he stressed the importance of listening and showing support.

“A lot of people worry about saying the wrong thing but it’s quite simple,” he said.

“If in doubt, remember you have two ears and one mouth – do twice as much listening as talking.

“Acknowledge the difficulties they’re facing and let them know you hear them.

“Assure them you’re there for them if they want to talk and ask what you can do to help.”

Mental illness is relatively common, impacting around one in five Australians each year.

If a friend or family member opens up about experiencing mental ill-health, encouraging them to take action is important.

Mr Hooper said he suggested offering to make an appointment with the person’s GP or a local mental health professional.

“There is help available and it does work,” he explained.

“Quite often the first step is the hardest and that’s where being a mate who is willing to support, not just ask the question, is critical.

“By reaching out, listening and actively providing pathways to help, you can change someone’s life.

“In fact, you might even save their life.”

For further advice or for help finding a GP or mental health professional in your area, phone

healthdirect on 1800 022 222.

Rural and Remote Mental Health is a not for profit delivering mental health awareness and

suicide prevention programs throughout rural and remote Australia.

Its Rural Minds program is managed by Tim Saal and based in South East Queensland.