“How are you?”

“Yeah, I’m OK…”

A question and response so routine that it is effectively hardwired into us.

However, a recent study suggests that some 78% of people will tell friends and family that they are fine even though they are struggling with their mental health.

A misconception has arisen that when someone asks how you are, they don’t really want to know; they are just being polite or creating small talk.

Though talking about mental health can be challenging, perhaps even awkward or scary for those experiencing it, this needs to be overcome.

Such a simple thing, but how do you ask someone if they are OK?

Location, location, location

There is no perfect place to broker the subject, but there are certainly more comfortable ones. Privacy and discretion are important to helping someone feel they are able to express themselves. It may also be helpful to have this conversation while you are doing something else; maybe going for a walk, or over a drink; distractions can sometimes be your friend.

Ask, listen, and be patient

Ask twice, let them know that you want to know what they are feeling, and that you are here for them. Then just give them space, and let them let it all out, as much or as little as they can handle. Ultimately, you can’t make anyone talk about anything, especially if they aren’t ready to share what they are going through. The fact that you have asked them is enough.

Don’t try to fix it, treat them the same

As natural as it may feel to offer advice or jump into action to help someone you care about, that’s not your place right now. The best thing you can do is be there, and to support them, and allow them to feel that their emotions are valid. Whether they are ready to seek further help is up to them, in the meantime the best thing you can do is to carry on as normal; to help them realise that they won’t be alienated for feeling this way, that they are still the same person to you even though they may not feel it.

Whatever the circumstances, reaching out is hard.

Sometimes there are no words, and sometimes, you will have been down this road before and you know what you’re doing, but the other people in your life need reassurance. Whatever the situation, whether you’re OK or not, let folks know. 

A footnote and disclaimer:

As much as we love to help people, we’re not medical experts. If you are ever worried about someone or think a person is at risk or in danger, please alert the appropriate authorities and help them get help. 

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Alex Tyler

Alex Tyler

Alex helps write content for OKButton and is excited to be a part of the project.