I have a thing about ‘Days’ – there’s plenty of them and they’re great because they raise awareness of whatever ‘Day’ it is. I have to admit though, they just sort of pass me by.
Of all people, an RU OK Day should resonate. I get the intentions of it, yes I do, but you can ask the question and then what? Then I saw this tweet from @RedRoverSays:
The problem with
#RUOK is there is another pressure on a depressed person to re-assure you that they are. What will you do if they say no?
The second sentence asks a really important question: What will you do if they say no?
The immediate urge is to either run away from this person or try and solve the problem. So I thought to myself, what would I want someone to do if I said “well, actually no I’m not okay” (like last Wednesday’s windswept teacher’s strike day!!) and from what have I learnt through my time at PANDA I think the answer is simply for someone to listen to me. Don’t try and immediately solve the problem.
This isn’t easy to do. When I was undertaking my training at PANDA (the Post and Antenatal Depression Association here in Australia) about 4 years ago, we’d do role plays and the urge for all of us was to solve the problem straight away. But the role of the phone counsellors is to first listen to the caller’s story. They’re ringing you because they’re upset, confused, anxious, depressed, unsure, etc. They need their thoughts and feelings listened to and validated to reassure them that they’re not alone.
And then there’s the “you think that’s bad, listen to what happened to me” response where the person you’re pouring your heart out to straight away launches into something about their life once you’ve finished. Don’t you love that?! Because, by doing that, they’re actually trying to think of a response to what you’re saying and therefore they’re not really listening. But think about a time it’s happened to you and how you felt – because it’s happened to all of us. I remember years ago I was telling someone about how I came to leave a certain workplace (I was really aggrieved by the whole thing) and as soon as I finished, they launched into this story about a difficulty in their workplace. You know what I thought? I thought “my future conversations with this person will be kept light”. You know you’ve done it, as I have…many times.
Not everyone wants to hear your problems – you really have to pick the right person. Nobody wants to burden others with their stuff and in fact I think the people I can do that with these days has shrunk to two or three.
So if you ask someone RU OK today and they say no and let you know what’s happening in their lives, don’t try and solve the problem, don’t relate the story back to you, just listen and say something along the lines of “you know what, it sounds like you’re going through a bit of a rough time at the moment” and keep listening. It’s called empathy.
If you’re a new (or not so new) mum or dad or pregnant and you’re not feeling okay or if you’re a family member or friend of someone you think is not okay, call PANDA from anywhere in Australia between the hours of 9am to 7pm AEST Monday to Friday on 1300 726 306.