We all go through life’s challenges. Grief, relationship breakdowns, tough times at work or home. But when our relationships are strong, we can spot the signs that someone may be struggling and reach out with a simple question, “Are you OK?”
This year, on the 28th of April, we celebrate R U OK Day in collaboration with TrackSAFE, a harm prevention charity focused on reducing deaths, injuries and near hits on the rail network. This is a separate event to the annual R U OK Day, held during September, this year being on the 8th.
The rail sector is the only industry to have their own R U OK Day, starting back in 2015. It has grown from 7,000 participants, to 90,000 since then. Although there is just one day specifically for the event, it’s a movement that aims to empower rail workers identify the signs that someone might not be OK and offer guidance on how to listen and also how to help.
After working on the railways for 28 years, Marty Zeck had a workplace back injury. He felt that he had lost his identity, was lost and didn’t feel like he had much support around him of people asking if his ok. His family were the ones to notice and had a conversation with him to seek help. Due to this, he now has a big drive to ensure he asks people if they’re okay and have that much needed conversation with them. You can watch his story here Why Marty asks, “Hey, Are you OK?”
The R U OK foundation promote their 4-step strategy to encouraging a conversation.
Step 1 is to ask. “How are you going” or “What’s been happening” is a good way to ease into the conversation. Then try mention specific things that are of concern for you. “You seem less chatty than usual, is everything going okay?”
Step 2 is to listen. Listen to them inventively and actively. Don’t interrupt them, don’t rush the conversation, and take what they’re saying seriously. Be open and not to judge their experiences and if they need time to think, sit patiently with the silence. If needed, repeat back what they’ve said in your own words to see if you understand the situation correctly.
Step 3 is to encourage action. Ask if there’s anything you can do to ease their stress, see if there’s certain ways you can support them, and be positive about the roll of professionals being in touch with them during difficult times.
Step 4 is to check in. Check in with them in a couple of weeks, or sooner depending on the severity of the situation. This step may be a repeat of steps 1-3, depending what action has been taken since your initial conversation, so stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern can make a real difference.
Most importantly, remember that a conversation can change a life, so every day is a good day to ask “R U OK?”