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R U OK? Starting a conversation with workmates

​Today is R U OK? Day, which presents an opportunity to break the stigma around mental health and to check-in with a workmate. This harm prevention strategy advocates starting life-changing conversations and connecting with someone who might be doing it tough.

Here, we’ll be arming you with the tools to strike up a conversation. Asking a workmate “are you ok?” is a great place to start.

2021 has been a challenging year for everyone. With ongoing lockdowns and uncertainty around the pandemic, offering your support and staying connected can make a huge impact on someone’s life.

In the blue-collar industry, workers are faced with many different pressures, including intense physical demands, burnout, fatigue and workplace injuries. These can bottle up over time, creating immense distress on an individual’s daily life.

Tradespeople and workers within construction and industrial industries may fear they’ll be faced with a ‘harden up’ attitude. There’s a common misconception that they’ll be perceived as weak when the reality is - it’s ok not to be ok.

If you notice someone at work acting a little differently, give them permission to open up about their struggles. Here are some signs or signals to look out for that may mean someone is battling with their mental health:

  •      Turning up late to work

  •      Personality changes such as acting withdrawn, angry, or irritable

  •     Experience exhaustion, fatigue, and lacking motivation

  •     Investing less than usual in their physical appearance and personal hygiene

  •    Lacking confidence and self-esteem

  •     Isolating themselves from workmates and social situations

You don’t need to be an expert to reach out. Simply follow these four simple steps:

1. Ask “are you ok?”

2. Listen

3. Encourage action

4. Check in

Important things to note

  • Don’t take it personally if they get upset, defensive or dismissive. Let them know you’re genuinely concerned.

  • If they say they’re fine, respect they may not be ready to talk. You should check-in again later if you still have concerns.

  • Opening up can take time. You may have to ask, “are you ok?” a few times before they feel ready to share.

  • Let them know you’re worried without being invasive or pushy.

  • Share your concerns with a mutual workmate to see if they’ve noticed the changes too. You can encourage them to reach out also. Be mindful of who you discuss this with and respect the person’s privacy. The last thing someone needs is to feel as if they’re the subject of worksite gossip.

How to ask?

We understand it can be a hard topic to approach, so we’ve developed some conversational examples, to let them know you’ve noticed changes in their usual behaviour.

  • “Hey mate, is everything ok?”

  • “How are you travelling?”

  • “The world’s pretty crazy at the moment. How are you coping with everything?”

  • “I noticed you weren’t onsite yesterday, are you ok?”

  • “You seem quieter than usual lately. How are you going?”

  • “We missed you at lunch yesterday, what’s been happening?”

Offering support

  • Listen actively and give them your full attention.

  • Encourage them to talk to a trusted family member, good friend, or a medical professional.

  • Look into some different help options together.

  • You can call a crisis or support service for advice if the person is not ok.

Following up

Continue to check in with them to show your ongoing support and make sure they’re getting the help they need. We’ve put together some examples below:

  • “How’d that Doctors appointment go last week?”

  • “How’d you go chatting to your family?”

  • “I just wanted to check-in to see how you’re going since last time we spoke.”

  • “Let’s grab a coffee later and have a yarn.”

  • “Hey mate, just thought I’d check in to see how you’ve been.”

Useful contacts

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14

  • Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

  • Mensline – 1300 78 99 78

  • Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

​For more resources and practical tools visit the R U OK? website.

It’s ok not to be ok!