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  • Writer's pictureNeralie Cain

How are you feeling today?

Tomorrow (Thursday 12 September) is R U OK? Day, a national day of action which encourages us to reach out to those around us and offer support during tough times. The overall message is to Trust the Signs, Trust your Gut & Ask R U OK? However, many people may wonder what comes next.

If I ask someone “are you ok?” and they say “no”, what should I do?

The most important thing to do is allow them the opportunity to talk about their difficulties, and to really listen. Most of the time when we talk to each other, we only have a small amount of our attention focused on what the other person is actually saying. The rest of our attention wanders to “what am I going to say next?”, “does this person like me?”, “why do I have a pain in my shoulder?”, “what am I going to have for dinner tonight?”, and so much more. It’s amazing that we can still carry on a conversation with all of these different ideas in our head! However, if we really focus on what the other person is saying, without trying to solve their problems, then this is a really powerful way to improve our interpersonal connections and help the other person to feel understood.

R U OK? has some great examples of what to say in these situations. For example:

- ask open questions, e.g., “what’s been happening?”, “how can I help?”, “what would help to take the pressure off?”

- describe your observations, e.g., “you don’t seem your old self lately”

- offer support, e.g., “I’m ready to listen if you want to talk”, “let’s check-in again next week”

The next step is to encourage the person to reach out for further support. Anonymous services such as Lifeline (ph. 13 11 14) and Beyond Blue (ph. 1300 22 4636) are great starting points. But for anyone who is really struggling with their psychological wellbeing, encouraging them to link in with a psychologist or other mental health professional may be even more beneficial in order to support longer-term change.

For some people, making the decision to see a psychologist is really hard. Some people might worry about the stigma of mental illness. Some people may have tried seeing a psychologist in the past but not had a good experience, and therefore believe that no psychologist will be able to help them. Some people might believe that it will take too long to get an appointment so there is no point even trying. Some people might believe that the cost will be prohibitive.

The more we talk about mental health, psychological wellbeing, and that it’s ok to not be ok, the more we will break down the stigma.

We need to talk about the importance of finding the right psychologist for you. That it’s not a “one size fits all” approach.

While waiting lists for appointments with some mental health professionals can be long, not all clinics will have long waiting lists. It’s ok to do your research (or get someone else to make the phone calls for you) and contact a number of clinics to get information. The waiting list for an individual psychologist will vary depending on a number of factors, including their working days and hours, location, and referral networks. A psychologist with a long waiting list is not necessarily “better” than one with a short waiting list. A psychologist with higher fees is not necessarily “better” than one with lower fees.

NLC Psychology is a newly established clinic and currently has appointments available within the next 1-2 weeks. We guarantee ongoing regular (weekly or fortnightly) appointments for all existing clients, because we believe that this produces the best outcomes for clients. Contact us today for more information or to book an appointment.

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