R U OK?: How to help when the answer is NO


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“R U Okay?”

It’s become a thing since the inception of R U Okay? Day.

"Are you OK?"

We ask on the second Thursday in September every year, but are we really interested in the answer? And, if we are not OK ourselves, do we tell the truth?


The story of R U Okay? Day

In 1995, much-loved Barry Larkin was far from ok. His suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions.

In 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families from the pain he endured.


Beyond OK: Gavin Larkin, the man behind R U OK? Day


How to help someone who is NOT OK

1.  Listen without judgement

Listen patiently. Try not to judge or “fix things”. It can be a huge relief to talk and share a burden. Just taking the time to listen, even without doing anything else, can be enough sometimes.


2.  Offer support

Let the person know that they do not have to go through their troubled times on their own. If you are able to be there for them, let them know they have your support. If the situation is more than you can deal with, offer to help them find the appropriate support through organisations like BeyondBlue, SANE, headspace (for younger people) and Lifeline.


3.  Encourage action and honesty

If you are worried, be honest about what is worrying you for the person and ask if anyone else is aware of how they are feeling. Encourage your friend to be honest with those closest to them and if that is not feasible, to share their feelings in confidence with their GP, or professional support groups. Encourage them to try some self-help strategies.

Things like;

  • eating well

  • exercising

  • meditating

  • writing feelings down

  • getting enough sleep

  • doing things they enjoy

  • avoiding alcohol and other drugs 


4.  Follow up

If a friend, colleague or loved one has been vulnerable with you and shared that they R NOT OK, don’t just leave them hanging.

Follow up with them in a day or so to see how they are doing and whether they have been able to find appropriate support.

Invite them to spend some time with you doing something they enjoy. Choose an activity that will not add to their pressures. Perhaps even ask them to suggest what they would like to do together. Often people who are struggling psychologically find it difficult to self-start on activities that will be good for their well-being and a friend inviting them to go for a walk or watch their favourite movie can be just the kickstart they need in their day.


When you are not enough

Sometimes, self-help strategies and talking it out is not enough. Thankfully, there is an increasing number of resources available to people facing emotional challenges and serious mental health issues. You could offer to go with them if they need more comprehensive support.

If you are concerned that your friend or loved one is in urgent need of assistance, do not hesitate to take them to your nearest emergency department, and if they will not attend with you, you should consider alerting family members, partners, or health professionals of your concerns.

If the situation is life-threatening, call 000  (Triple Zero)





How to help children who are feeling sad about grief and loss

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Sometimes when I say "I'm Okay", I'm not ...

How to combat overwhelm and anxiety attacks

What is an Emotional Trigger?

How to Manage your Emotional Triggers in 5 Simple Steps

How to think optimistically about your future after separation

How to harness the power of your transition


Published by:

Christine Weston Divorce Australia

Published by, Christine Weston
Founding Director and Creator of Divorce Resource
Australian Nationally Accredited Mediator and Divorce Coach


Connect with Divorce Resource:

This article contains general information only. For advice regarding your own personal circumstances, always seek individual advice from a qualified professional. Read the full Divorce Resource.com.au Disclaimer here


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