With the best of intentions we sometimes put our foot in it when it comes to supporting a mate or loved when who might be going through a tough time. Understanding depression and anxiety or any mental health issue can be bewildering for both the person unwell and their support network.
Sometimes we don’t always say the right thing to let the person know we are there for them. But words have power and thinking twice before offering advice, an opinion or a judgment to someone who is already feeling vulnerable, is key.
We’ve put together a few common scenarios people with depression/anxiety sometimes hear and offer an alternative response. These responses are more supportive and likely to encourage your loved one or friend to open up to you. Being able to open up without feeling judged, gives relief and establishes trust — and that’s the best gift you can give someone who’s struggling.
Here are some things you shouldn’t say to someone who has depression:
1. “I read that exercising every day is the best way to beat depression/anxiety, you should join the gym and start walking 5km a day. Endorphins, you need endorphins!”
While it’s true that exercising does help lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety, some people, when they’re in a really low place, can barely cope with getting out of bed to shower. The gap between where they’re at to this new world of up and at ‘em, can seem impossible to reach.
Instead say: “I know when I have been feeling a bit off, getting out each morning for a walk really helped me get back to a better headspace. If you ever want a walking buddy or want to try Tai Chi or something like that, I would love to join you.”
2. “You have a great life, a great family, a beautiful home, what do you have to be depressed about?”
Depression/anxiety is not a choice and this is not a supportive comment, it will only alienate the person further. Your friend/loved one is probably very aware they have a “good life.” This comment will probably just shut down the possibility of them feeling comfortable opening up about their troubles with you.
Instead say: “I can see you’re doing it tough at the moment. Do you feel like opening up about what’s happening, I have time to talk? If not now, you can call me anytime, I’m always here for you, please know that.”
3. “You just need to get out of the house, you’re cooped up here on your own and that can’t be good for you, no wonder you’re depressed!”
People who are struggling with depression or anxiety just can’t leave the house, sometimes. Facing the world when they are at their worst is just not an option for them. It just isn’t.
Instead try: “If you feel like going for a walk, even just around the block, I would love that. Have a think about it. If not today, how about tomorrow? I really need to walk too, you’d actually be helping me get more active.”
4. “You need to snap out of this, it’s not fair on the rest of your family/friends, you’re being selfish.”
Red flag to a probably exhausted bull. This is not helpful, it can feel judgmental and alienating. This is not a choice, it’s something that feels completely out of their control. Guilt and shame compound their problem.
Instead try: “ Is there anything I can do to make this time a little easier for you? Can I drive you to see your doctor or phone and make an appointment for you? How can I best support you?
5. “I was depressed for a few days once, I get it, but I just made myself get over it. You should just try and be happy.”
Being out of sorts for a few days does not equate to depression and comparing your situation to someone else’s isn’t supportive.
Instead say: “I went through a few rough days myself a couple of years ago, but I managed to get myself back on track. I know this is probably different, but I’d be happy to share what got me through it, if you think it might help.”
6. “I’m throwing a dinner party to cheer you up, it’ll just be a few close friends and family.”
Eek! With the best of intentions, you have probably seen the wide-eyed look of horror on your friend’s face in response to that well-meaning offer. Depression and anxiety are no friend to socialising. Even if the guests are people they know well. The pressure to chat and appear happy when you’re not is exhausting .
Instead say: “I would love to have you around for lunch or a cuppa one day next week, just you and me, is that something you feel like you might be able to handle at the moment?”
7. “You’re depressed because you have nothing meaningful to do in your life. You need to socialise more or join a club, just get out and about more, you need to make an effort.”
While social connectedness and feeling a part of things is definitely key to a healthier lifestyle and a sense of well-being, not everyone with depression or anxiety is capable of taking such a big step. It can be scary enough for some people when they’re feeling great, but a terrifying prospect when that person is not at their best.
Instead try: “ I was thinking about joining, (e.g.) ‘Ladies who Luncheon,’ it looks like a lot of fun and it’s only once a fortnight. I’d feel a lot better if I had someone to go with, would you consider coming with me next week if you’re feeling up to it?”
8. “I’m trying to be supportive and I know you can’t help having depression/anxiety, but you’ve been taking medication for a while now, so how come it’s not working? How long before you’ll be better?”
How long is a piece of string? The odds are your friend or loved one has been wondering the same thing. Getting better or just managing a condition, even on medication, is different for everyone. There’s no quick fix and making the person feel like they’re not getting better fast enough, will possibly make them withdraw further.
Instead say: “Have you had a chat to your doctor lately about your progress, how are you feeling about it all? I’m happy to listen if you want to get anything off your chest. This must be very frustrating for you and sometimes a good vent helps. I’ll make us a cuppa.”
9. “This mood you’re in is a choice you know? You need to pull yourself up by the boot straps and get on with things. People depend on you, you know.”
Oh, thank you for being so frank, said no one ever. A comment like this will only further compound the isolation this person is already feeling. It will It certainly not open up any opportunity for meaningful connection or conversation, which could actually be the starting point to them getting help.
Try instead: “I really can’t relate to how you’re feeling, mate. I haven’t had depression so it’s hard for me to understand what you’re going through right now. I wish I could understand it a bit better, so if you want to talk to me about it, I’ll make us a cuppa and sit with you for a while.”
Need more tips to help you talk to someone you're worried about? Visit our How to Ask page.
Before R U OK? announces our plans for the year ahead, we wanted to pause and reflect on the year that was.
2017 was an incredible year for R U OK? – with national awareness and participation in the campaign continuing to grow. The simplicity and effectiveness of our four conversation steps - Ask R U OK?, Listen, Encourage action and Check in- has continued to build the capacity of Australians to support those struggling with life.
Here are just a few of our good news stories and achievements in 2017:
The Conversation Convoy:
We travelled 16,000 km across Australia on the Conversation Convoy. We visited every state and territory and hosted events in 22 communities to show Australia we’ve all got what it takes to ask R U OK? and support those struggling with life.
Here are some highlights from that journey:
In an Australian first, R U OK? and Taste of Melbourne in partnership with Electrolux are joining forces with celebrity chefs to launch Conversation Bites, a charity restaurant initiative to raise funds for suicide prevention and to encourage meaningful conversations from 30 November – 3 December in Yarra Park.
Celebrity chefs including Dan Hunter, Raymond Capaldi, Sam Pinzone and Geoff Lindsay, will combine their passion for food and suicide prevention to create a delicious ‘Conversation Bites’ menu and design a limited-edition dish for the R U OK? restaurant to share with loved ones.
A percentage of the proceeds from the restaurant will fund additional R U OK? campaigns and resources to generate more life-changing conversations.
R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher said: “Whether you’re a foodie or not, tough times can sometimes wear us down. That’s why R U OK? has teamed up with Taste of Australia, to get people together over food. Because a problem shared is a problem halved, and a great place to start is by asking, “are you ok?”
“Eight people per day take their own lives in Australia. So, how do we reduce that number? We need people to taco ‘bout it – not just on R U OK? Day, but 365 days a year.
“We are really proud to launch this first charity restaurant at Taste of Melbourne, and hope to replicate the idea across the country.”
Conversation Bites pop up restaurant and menu will be available exclusively at Taste of Melbourne, with four dishes being created by the line-up of chefs.
For more information on how to get the conversation started, visit ruok.org.au .
Rachel Clements is the Director of Psychological Services at the Centre for Corporate Health and member of the R U OK? Conversation Think Tank. She shares her tips for managing the transition out of the workforce:
Q. What affect can transitioning out of the workforce have on me?
“Transitioning out of the workforce can be a stressful time for you financially, emotionally and can impact your relationships and health. "Those who have strong social support and who are engaged in the community usually have the smoothest and most enjoyable transition. This is important when going through any change in your life because supportive relationships are one of the strongest buffers for our mental health and resilience. We encourage anyone facing a period of change to start planning activities and touch points that will help them stay connected to their support network. "
We encourage anyone going through a career change to set out a plan and seek professional advice to help them manage these changes - like talking to your financial advisors and trusted health professionals.”
What can I do to manage the transition?
“The support of colleagues, friends and families can really help someone regain their balance and feel a sense of comfort, confidence and control during this period of transition and change. “A number of factors can affect how someone copes with the transition – their financial situation; their health, both psychological and physical; and their perception of what that next step will be. Friends, family and colleagues can play an important role in helping someone process the change by checking in regularly over the phone, face to face or via SMS.”
What are some of the signs someone might be struggling with the transition?
The early warning signs include: • Irritability and frustration
Q. What can I do if someone’s struggling with the transition?
“If you notice they’re not coping, it is important to have a supportive conversation with them to help them get back on track. Encouraging them to get active, try something new or join a community group can all help in reducing feelings of loneliness and helplessness.
“If you notice that they are experiencing low mood, increased anxiety or have not been themselves for longer than two weeks, it is important to encourage them to speak to their GP or another health professional such as a psychologist to help them manage the transition and get back on track.”
Find tips to get the conversation started here.
Find helplines and professional supports here.
In 2010, R U OK?
Ambassador, Board Member and host of Channel10’s The Living Room, Barry Du Bois
learned that he had plasmacytoma myeloma, a cancer of the immune system which
attacks healthy bone marrow. He publicly shared the story of his cancer battle.
Following an operation, and radiotherapy, Barry received the good news
that the cancer was under management, but still in his body, and he was
Last Friday, Barry shared with The Living Room viewers his latest news - that his last blood result showed that his cancer had returned, relatively aggressively.
Barry has used his announcement to emphasise the importance of social support for those living with cancer, saying:
“I am lucky to be going into this battle with the love and support of so many people. I know how much they care for me. I am also very aware of how much my wife, and my friends and family need their own support through this time. As an ambassador for R U OK? I’m passionate about their ethos, which encourages meaningful conversations, in everyday life.”
Barry also shared his advice for friends, family and loved ones supporting someone through an illness, saying:
“If you are supporting someone be it a physical or mental health situation, I would encourage you also to seek some help, and to talk to those around you. Asking, Listening, Encouraging action and Checking in are the 4 steps to helping someone you care about navigate a tough time in their life. At times like this we need to be vigilant and keep checking in with each other. If we feel a conversation has become too big and you need extra support, R U OK? has a help seeking page you should refer to. Go to www.ruok.org.au/findhelp ”
R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher has joined Barry’s call to support those facing the diagnosis and their loved ones, saying:
“Barry Du Bois has been a tireless advocate for R U OK?, championing stronger support for those who are struggling with life. As Barry faces this battle he has the care and support of those around him, and the entire R U OK? team. We join his call and encourage everyone to be present, available, supportive and non-judgemental of those facing similar battles.”
Each year in Australia around 1700 people are diagnosed with myeloma - the equivalent of four people every day. If you or a loved one are affected by cancer you can find information, resources and advice at cancer.org.au
If you’re supporting a loved one with cancer this booklet might help.
A new website that links Australians to
online and phone mental health services, information and resources is now live. Head to Health
connects people to trusted online and phone mental health
services appropriate for their individual needs.
Services and resources listed on Head to Health are delivered by Australia’s trusted mental health service providers including SANE Australia, The BlackDog Institute and Lifeline. They include free or low-cost apps, online support communities, online courses, and phone services that are private and secure.
Head to Health will help people to take control of their mental health, at a time and place convenient to them, complementing or in place of face-to-face services. It supports people seeking help- either for themselves or someone they care about.
Head to Health is not only helpful when seeking support for a mental health condition, it also provides information about staying mentally well for every Australian.
Head to Health was developed in collaboration with the community, the mental health sector and the Department of Health. R U OK? is one of the Head to Health service provider partners, providing resources to assist friends and family when reaching out to someone they're worried about. Visit headtohealth.gov.au for more information.
The R U OK? Conversation Convoy aimed to inspire every Aussie, no matter their location, to invest more time in the people around them and give them the skills, motivation and confidence to start a conversation with anyone they may be worried about.
Here's what was achieved over our six week journey:
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull address: https://www.dropbox.com/s/3nd7biyttpqd8v0/RUOKvideo.mov?dl=0
AFTER travelling 14,000 km and hosting 30 events across the country, R U OK?’s Conversation Convoy has pulled up at its final destination on the Esplanade in Cairns, in time for R U OK?Day, 14 September.
The conclusion of the Convoy is marked by a three-hour concert featuring some of the most talented ambassadors – including Ben Lee, Travis Collins, Louise Adams, Steven Oliver, Tullara Connors, Big T, James Van Cooper and former Skunkhour front man and brother of R U OK? founder, Aya Larkin.
The R U OK? Rocks Cairns concert brings artists and performers together to highlight the importance of mateship and connection. Los Angeles based Australian performer Ben Lee said, “I’m a big believer in the power of human beings connecting with each other. It’s a simple remedy to so many of life’s problems.”
The Conversation Convoy hit the road after research indicated that one in three Australians are still uncomfortable asking, ‘Are you ok,’ of those who are struggling with life.
With suicide rates over 2.5 times higher in many regional and remote areas of the country, the Convoy visited communities in the NT, the Kimberley in WA and across the Nullabor to towns as far inland as Bourke, NSW to promote the four steps to having a conversation; Ask, Listen, Encourage action and Check in.
According to The Centre for Regional and Remote Mental Health, people in major cities are twice as more likely to access a psychologist than their regional and remote counterparts.
CEO Brendan Maher said R U OK? wanted to show all Australians they have a set of resources at hand to check in with anyone they might be worried about.
“We already have assets available to us, those being our eyes, ears and mouths which are sometimes held hostage by fear and stigma,” he said.
“We are trying to create a world where those who are struggling receive the love, care and support they need from the people around them. We all have what it takes to ask someone if they’re ok and if they’re not, that’s where the four steps can help navigate a path to help-seeking.
“We know our 2017 Conversation Convoy has planted seeds in the communities we’ve visited and passed through. We hope it acts as a spring board to asking people if they’re ok 365 days a year, not just on our big day.”
For the fourth year in a row, Conversation Partner Virgin Mobile is offering their customers free standard calls within Oz today to check in with family and friends.
‘R U OK? Rocks Cairns’ on R U OK?Day
Where: Fogarty Park Sound Shell, The Esplanade, Cairns.
When: 7.30am to 11am
For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For more info, visit ruok.org.au.
For interview, image requests or survey results, please contact:
Lizzy Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0400 922 919
Lisa Minner: email@example.com or 0456 475 033
Tess McPherson: firstname.lastname@example.org 02 9667 4211 or 0432 101 113
Simone Smith: email@example.com 02 9667 4211 or 0422 046 342
Available for interviews:
Notes to Editors:
R U OK?
The research was conducted on behalf of R U OK? by Colmar Brunton and via the Colmar Brunton and Your Source Omnibus, which interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,025 Australian adults (aged 18+). It excludes people who’ve participated in the previous three weeks and data is post weighted to ABS proportions. The margin of error associated with the results is +/- 3.0%.
*The Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health: https://www.crrmh.com.au/content/uploads/Briefing-Paper_FINAL_11052017.pdf
Thank you to our sponsors: Liptember, Hungry Jacks, Flight Centre Foundation, Virgin Mobile and the Audi Foundation.
The Convoy was greeted by balmy ocean breezes and sunny skies in the tropical far north Queensland, town.
CEO Brendan Maher welcomed around 120 guests to the event that included activations based on embedding the four steps to starting a life changing conversation.
Ask, Listen, Encourage action and Check in.
Mental health service providers like Townsville Suicide Prevention Network, VVCS, Mates in Construction, Healthecare, Standby, and Rural and Remote Mental Health had stands at the event to highlight services available to anyone locally who might be going through a rough patch.
Other guests included Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, JCU Townsville Fire basketball team members, Invictus Games team member Davin Bretherton and the Army’s 1RAR band.
The local Townsville Northern Suburb Lions Club kept the masses fed and watered with a BBQ.
Maher spoke about the importance of checking in with friends and loved ones, especially in towns where services were sometimes difficult to access. He said the R U OK? team wanted to show all Australians they have a set of resources at hand to check in with anyone they might be worried about.
“We already have assets available to us, those being our eyes, ears and mouths which are sometimes held hostage by fear and stigma,” he said.
The event was officially opened by Councillor Les Walker and Mayor Jenny Hill welcomed the Convoy to Townsville.
Cr Hill reiterated the importance of the Townsville community asking the question of anyone they might be worried about to reduce the rising rates of suicide in Townsville and across Australia.
Maher then conducted a Q&A with R U OK? Ambassadors ‘Commando’ Steve Willis and former local comedian and actor, Steven Oliver.
The Convo Convoy will hit the road to Cairns tomorrow for their final event which will culminate in a R U OK? Rocks Cairns concert at Soundshell on the Esplanade in Cairns on R U OK?Day, Thursday September 14.
The event will kick off at 7.30am and conclude around 11am.
For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Lisa Minner: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0456 475 033
NITV and R U OK? join forces in media partnership to encourage more life changing conversations
R U OK? and NITV have joined forces as media partners by signing an MOU to encourage more life changing conversations in communities across Australia.
NITV will join a small group of media partners who are dedicated to using their platform to make meaningful change through storytelling and news content.
NITV and R U OK? have taken the next step in formalising a commitment to working more closely together to better inform Indigenous Australians around ways to support each other through tough times.
R U OK? CEO Brendan Maher said, “With suicide rates up to five times higher in Indigenous populations across the country we have to get better at building people’s confidence and sharing a conversation roadmap so everyone knows where to start if they’re worried about a mate or a family member.
“Story telling is a big part of how R U OK? gets the message out and NITV reaches more Indigenous Australians than any other media outlet, so it seems like a natural fit”, Maher said.
NITV ’s Channel Manager, Tanya Orman said, “As a trusted source of information, NITV is proud to provide further opportunity for the important messaging and engagement of R U OK? with Indigenous Australians.
“We want to ensure our community is equipped with the knowledge of who they can call when the going gets tough for themselves or someone they know.”
R U OK? has engaged a number of Indigenous ambassadors and role models like Steven Oliver, Jake Gablonski and Riverbank Frank Doolan to help further spread the message that asking “are you okay?” and checking in with someone who might be struggling, can change lives and sometimes save them.
On R U OK? Day, Thursday 14 September, NITV will shine a light on the work and messages of R U OK?, with the Marngrook Footy Show at 7.30pm featuring special guest Courtney Dempsey – the Essendon Bombers player who has opened up about the depression he has suffered since being delisted by the AFL club at the end of last season. At 9pm, R U OK? ambassador Jake Gablonski will be a guest on NITV ’s news and current affairs discussion program The Point .
NITV looks forward to working closely with R U OK? to help empower and reach Australians through exemplary storytelling and content.
R U OK? media partners assist the suicide prevention charity in providing and promoting content to encourage regular and meaningful conversations.
For more information on the Conversation Convoy’s route and event locations please contact:
Media manager Lisa Minner
Ph: 0421623387 or 0456475033
Nicole Warwick: email@example.com or 0412 934 643
Lizzy Thomas: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0400 922 919
For information on NITV:
Viktoria Balanzategui | +61 429 625 967 | Viktoria.email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
R U OK?
• R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life
• R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the Thursday 14 September, 2017
• Every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at ruok.org.au
Home of Indigenous storytelling, with TV programs that inspire, instill pride and lead to a greater respect of Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal culture.
A bright yellow XPT adorned with ‘R U OK?’ messages, will depart from Sydney’s Central Station on R U OK?Day , Thursday 14 September. The Sydney to Dubbo XPT in special livery will encourage commuters to check in with one another and ask the question “are you ok?”
The R U OK? train has been brought to life courtesy of NSW TrainLink, in partnership with the TrackSAFE Foundation, Sydney Trains and suicide prevention charity, R U OK?
According to TrackSAFE’s Executive Director, Naomi Frauenfelder, the conversation train is an ideal mechanism for promoting the initiative to both the community and the rail industry.
“We’re excited for a transportable ‘R U OK? message’ to move across the states and through our regional towns by rail; the wrapped XPT acts as a moving billboard helping to get the ‘R U OK?’ message into the community reminding us all to have regular and meaningful conversations with others. Not only this, the ‘conversation train’ acts as a reminder to rail staff to reach out to a co-worker who might need some extra support. The rail industry celebrates its own, industry specific R U OK?Day in April each year, so this conversation train helps keep the message alive all year round,” said Ms Frauenfelder.
The journey to Dubbo and back to Sydney will take just over six hours each way allowing ample time for people to turn to the person next them and ask if they’re doing ok. After departing Central, the train will travel across western Sydney in peak hour before making stops along the way at towns such as Bathurst, Orange and Wellington.
R U OK CEO Brendan Maher said, “We are thrilled to have the support of NSWTrainLink on our biggest day of the year,
“What a great show of support to help take our messaging – along with R U OK Ambassador and former Dubbo NRL player Daniel Conn – out to regional townships where we’ve been rolling out the four steps to a conversation, the last six weeks as part of our Conversation Convoy,” Mr Maher said.
NSW TrainLink Chief Operating Officer Pete Allaway said they are pleased to be a part of the initiative, “NSW TrainLink is proud to be able to take this important message to communities and encourage people to ask family, friends and colleagues R U OK?,
“In an industry where staff sometimes witness tragic incidents, we know the importance of looking out for the people around us who might be struggling and taking the opportunity to have meaningful conversations.
“As well as today’s trips between Sydney and Dubbo, the special bright yellow locomotive will continue to take the RUOK? message around south-eastern Australia as it operates across our New South Wales network and to Brisbane and Melbourne,” Mr Allaway said.
A number of community members, commuters, rail staff and R U OK Ambassadors will gather at Platform 6 at Central Station for a media event, in time for the XPT’s send off at 7.18am .
Where: Platform 6, Central Station, Sydney, (Sydney to Dubbo XPT).
When: Thursday 14 September, R U OK?Day
Time : 7.00am media launch on the platform – XPT departs at 7.18am
Who: Daniel Conn former NRL player and R U OK? Ambassador, Pete Allaway Chief Operating Officer NSW TrainLink, Howard Collins Chief Executive Sydney Trains, Naomi Frauenfelder Executive Director TrackSAFE Foundation.
Notes to Editor:
The TrackSAFE Foundation was established by the Australian rail industry to reduce near collisions, injuries and fatalities on the rail network resulting from suicide and reckless behaviour. By doing so, TrackSAFE aims to create a better workplace for rail employees. tracksafefoundation.com.au
R U OK?
R U OK? is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to inspire and empower everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life. R U OK? Day is a national day of action, held on the second Thursday of September each year. September 14, 2017. But every day is the day to start a conversation. Conversation tips and crisis numbers can be found at ruok.org.au
NSW TrainLink provides intercity, regional and interstate rail and coach services, connecting customers across New South Wales, into southern Queensland to Brisbane, as well as through northern Victoria to Melbourne. nsw trainlink.info
R U OK? | Lisa Minner
0421 623 387 | firstname.lastname@example.org
NSWTrainLink | Peter Leate
0428 519 924 | email@example.com
TrackSAFE | Sara Ross
0 402 419 962 | E firstname.lastname@example.org