It’s important to take the time to listen and validate how people feel

If there has been an upside to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the countless stories about people staying in touch with elderly neighbours, businesses checking in and not up on colleagues, and friends making sure the introverts in their lives are staying connected.

To coincide with Thursday’s RU OK? Day 2020, a national initiative for the prevention of suicide, Dr Glen Hosking Clinical Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at Victoria University talks to us about why asking someone ‘RUOK’ is only the first step.

“What happens when someone is not ok? Having conversations about our mental health can be difficult. You don’t have to be a professional to show support, but knowing what to say or what not to say is important,” says Dr Hosking.

“It’s important to take the time to listen and validate how they feel. Sometimes hearing ‘that sounds really unpleasant’ can be empowering to people,” says Dr Hosking. “While often done with the best intentions, avoid trying to solve the problem, offering advice, solutions, things they can try, or things they could have done differently.”

While Victorians are likely to remain in a version of lock-down until November, Dr Hosking says there doesn’t always have to be an obvious reason why people struggle with their mental health.

“COVID-19 will have an impact, but for some of people, naming an actual reason can be difficult. Sometimes people struggle over everyday things, or feel on top of the world one day, and desperately sad the next – those feelings are perfectly normal, but if they become overwhelming, it’s time to talk to a professional. Due to shutdown, catch-up with friends and family has been severely impacted, so it’s never been more critical to stay connected,” says Dr Hosking.

The theme for 2020 is: There is more to say after RU OK?

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