The other day, a friend of mine asked me about my depression. She wanted to know how I was going. She said that she’d been wanting to ask for a while, but hadn’t known how to bring it up.
When I read her words to me, the layers built up round my soul shed away a little. The loneliness that had been breathing on me momentarily lost its breath. I was no longer alone in my private war between depression and pretending to be fine.
I was free.
You’ve heard of the word compassion, right? It’s ordinarily used as a pretty word, a synonym for kindness or sympathy. But the true meaning of compassion is to suffer with – to co-suffer.
Compassion is an action, and it literally means to suffer with somebody. It means to share their pain, to celebrate their joy. It means to be a partner with somebody. Compassion means that we are never alone, in our joy or sorrow.
It means that the pain doesn’t belong to any one person anymore. It means that nobody has to suffer alone, you or them. Compassion is to meet another person exactly where they are – and to find yourself met, exactly where you are.
On this ‘R U OK?’ day, I meet your eyes. I see your joy, and your sorrow. Your darkness, and your light. We are all hurting, celebrating, people. Sometimes, it’s easy to distinguish between the sick and healthy, the beautiful and the ugly. Sometimes, we separate ourselves from each other, depending on our diagnosis or our plans, depending on our reputation or our status.
But no matter who we are, no matter what our lives look like, no matter what struggles we have in our mind or body –
we are all broken people, and we need each other,
and in our compassion,
How to ask 'R U OK?'
R U OK? provide a great resource that details how to talk to a loved one about their mental health. You can check that out here.
To put it simply, if you follow these four steps, you'll find that the conversation can flow pretty easily.
Make sure you are in a good headspace and ready to properly listen to your friend. Ask them at an appropriate time, when they are free and you are in a fairly private space. If they don't want to talk, let them know you are always there for them if they change their mind.
Remember that you don't need to 'fix' anything, but that as a friend, you simply need to listen well. Believe what they are saying and don't judge them. You can show them that you are listening by encouraging them to explain further, repeating back what you have heard, and sitting with them in silence if they need to gather their thoughts.
3. ENCOURAGE ACTION
By asking your friend how they have managed similar situations in the past, you are reminding them they have skills that will help them navigate this time. Don't push them to act, but ask, 'How would you like me to support you?'. If they have been feeling down for more than two weeks or you feel they may be at risk of harming themselves, encourage them to get some further support and assist them in finding it (Have a look through our FIND HELP page or visit the doctor with them).
If you are concerned they are suicidal or may harm themselves or others, ring Lifeline on 13 11 14 or call 000.
4. CHECK IN
Put a reminder in your phone or diary to check in with your friend in the weeks following your conversation. Let them know you are available if they want to talk further or would like assistance seeking further support.
- Ask R U Ok? today to a loved one
- Go to the 'FIND HELP' page, to access support near you
- Share our WSPD posts on social media this week and spread the word
- Place this poster up around your school and workplace
- Order our WSPD pack to share the message of hope with your friends