Conversations are sometimes just a simple exchange of information. They could also help to clarify your own thinking, present an opportunity to learn something new or spark a bit of creativity.
Conversations are also how we connect with others.
In the lead up to ‘R U OK? Day’ we want you to share how a conversation may have changed your life.
This following unfiltered thoughts may contain themes that might be difficult to read or triggering to some readers. Readers in need can visit our Creating a Safe Space page to see a full list of support services.
Remind your loved ones that you love them
My first few months out of high school were quite stressful. I was balancing Uni, a new job, and the responsibilities of living independently in a new city. All of which were affecting my mental health. I really didn’t like my Uni course, and after my first semester I finally decided to quit. Soon after I worked up the courage to tell my Mum I wanted to quit my course. I was scared she would judge me because I had worked so hard at school to get into a “good” university course. My Mum listened, and then told me that she was proud of me and loved me no matter what I was studying or doing. This conversation was so important to me, as my parents don’t often tell me they love me, even though I know inside that they do. It’s important that people openly and regularly express their love and support for their loved ones, as these reminders can make such a difference when people are having a hard time. My conversation with my Mum gave me the strength to leave a situation that made me unhappy and work on my mental health.
Steph (she/her), 21 TAS
Am I Really OK?
Everybody always asks, “are you ok?” or “how are you?”. And most people’s response is… “I’m fine”.
I’ve been there. I’ve been dying on the inside rehearsing how to tell someone what is going on, waiting for that ‘perfect’ opportunity. I’ve cried at night because I couldn’t tell people what was driving me crazy, what I was almost obsessing over. But they did ask, “are you ok?” And I brushed them off, I gave the classic “I’m fine” response. And the conversation moved on and those thoughts that I wanted to get out, just bottled up inside me.
So, what I’m trying to say with the few words I have, is this. Ask more questions. But ask more than “Are you OK?” Ask how their friends are, how much homework they’ve been getting done, what are they doing at lunch. This compassion, truly caring about the person’s feelings, not just as a greeting or formality, is what creates that transparent, lasting relationship.
So, this year for R U OK day, ask. ASK your friends, ASK your family. And be there for them if that bottle bursts. But also be there if they are indeed just having a great time.
Janine (she/her), 16 NSW
Those three words
This past year has been the toughest of my life, I have struggled with coming to terms with my sexuality, my gender, abusive family situations, chronic illness, mental illness, moving away from friends – the list goes on.
My partner has also had her fair share of toughness throughout her life, and the past few years have consisted of a life-changing accident, recovery, gender and sexuality discovery, mental illness, and chronic illness/disability as well.
Despite us being in a live-together relationship, we always make sure to ask each other every day “R U OK?” and actually mean it. These conversations not only help us maintain a great relationship, but also save our lives.
Giving each other a safe space allows us to ask for help if we’re hurting, talking through ways to help and comfort each other.
No matter if you’re in a relationship or not, having someone close to check in with every now and then is life-changing, even if those three words seem insignificant.
This “R U OK?” Day, check in with loved ones, or old pals, because these heartfelt conversations and spaces to vent about being alive is what keeps us going!
Kaiarya (they/them), 19 QLD
We must ask RUOK every day
Conversations about my mental health honestly changed my life. I wouldn’t be here today without having those conversations. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety when I was about 14, following the death of my grandparents.
I put on a happy face a lot of time but struggled with self-harm, suicidal ideation, anxiety attacks and couldn’t get through common social situations. My mum and my friends started noticing behavioural changes in me and started conversations to ask if I was okay, and while I resisted seeking professional mental health help initially – because they kept asking – eventually I agreed to see a psychologist.
Conversations with my psychologist saved my life, I was properly medicated and attended regular sessions for 7 years. I’m now working at a preventative youth mental health charity, to help encourage other young people to check in with their friends and learn the signs of mental ill-health.
What I am most grateful for is the fact that even after that initial conversation with my loved ones asking if I was okay, they didn’t leave it at that. It’s about knowing what to do after asking that question, and what to do if someone says they aren’t okay. It’s paramount that we get in the habit of checking in on our friends and family as a regular routine, and treat our mental health with the same importance as our physical health.
Crystal (she/her), 26 NSW
The impact of healthcare workers.
After some difficult life events, including moving out for the first time, balancing work and uni whilst navigating new social situations I found my mental health seriously impacted and didn’t know where to turn, especially when my health and wellbeing started to become physically impacted.
Conversations with particular nurses encouraged me to continue seeking help.
Robbie encouraged me to continue presenting to the emergency room during mental health crises. I never looked forward to seeing them considering the context, but they would always stop and say ‘hi’, keeping me company while I got treated at 2am.
Nick and Alex played 21 questions with me while I was trapped in an isolation room.
Nick encouraged me to have open and honest conversations with my mates, which resulted in my best friend and I crying over the phone telling each other how much we loved our friendship and how meaningful we are to each other.
I was also encouraged by Alex to go to a local cafe that has open mic nights where I started reading poetry about my mental health with my housemates.
Then there’s Justin, who called me cool and said I reminded him of Effy from Skins.
Most significantly Bridget, who sat with me on a cardiology ward listening to triple J’s hottest 100.
These nurses all went out of their way over various admissions to actually talk to me, to get to know me. This allowed me to be open and honest with them, and upon thinking of them and their kindness I was encouraged to continue seeking help regardless of if I would see them or not. Despite being underpaid and short staffed, working in horrific conditions, these nurses all went out of their way to engage in meaningful conversations with me which then allowed me to continue those meaningful conversations in my own social circles. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Poppy (she/her), 22 NSW
Unusually fun day
Not many people find it easy to be vocal about how they are feeling.
It’s difficult to express and naturally surfaces only with the ones you are comfortable with. Well, I’m one of them.
Expressing feelings doesn’t come naturally. It really helps when someone approaches and comes up with a topic to talk about. Even a single question, “How are you doing?” can open a way to initiate a conversation and feel connected. My recent experience with one of my batchmate, made so much difference in my life.
What she did was not something very special, but just making the conversation jolly and funny. By the end of the day, we were singing songs in car while drive back to home. This is unusual for me, but I confess that it was one of the best days I had in a long time.
Chittesha (she/her), 30 VIC
A smile and a laugh
I try to be happy and smile a lot. Obviously, that is not always easy. Depending on who you are or where you are from, life can be difficult. But I do believe in a few things – smiles and happiness are contagious. Especially for people who thrive off other people’s energy.
I feel that when I am down, a good laugh generally soothes my mind. Stress from work, worries about friends or family, or even pressure being put on by yourself – a happy and encouraging friend changes the course of your day. It sounds awfully cliche, but I believe it.
I was talking to a politician once who said that their Dad always tried to be happy, even when he may not have been – and that smile, no matter what he was feeling inside, changed perspective’s and attitudes in the family. Sometimes I just need that friend who is there to listen, to smile, and support, and most of all, laugh with. I can’t count how many times a quick laugh has immediately repositioned me and my perspective on the day ahead.
Matthew (he/him), 19 QLD
Calling For Help
The words ‘danger zone’ stick in my mind, thinking back to that time of my life. Not just because I was in the age bracket where mental illness could lead to riskier behaviours, but also because that’s what all my doctors classified my mental health as.
Dangerously low, at risk of suicidal or self-harm thoughts.
The problem when you feel like screaming is you can’t. The problem when you’re trying to call for help but can’t is that you try hinting, saying small things, but all those small things aren’t obvious to the people around you.
My lowest point was a summer night in early 2018. I’d run out of the house because I couldn’t bear to be inside with these people anymore. I was wandering the neighbourhood, desperately trying to escape my thoughts, and every time a car passed by, I had to clutch at my sides, physically holding myself back from throwing myself in front of them. I had my phone with me and I was desperately trying to get in contact with the helpline.
I was on hold for more than an hour.
In the end, I hung up and called my friend instead. We’d been texting, but I needed urgently to hear someone’s voice. I rambled incoherently about all of these things, over and over telling them how scared I was. They listened. When I broke down crying, they gently shushed me, like you do to a child having a nightmare. They told me it was okay, or that it was going to be. They stayed on the other end of that call until I was calm enough to go home.
Sarah (she/her), 22 VIC
Living in a rural area can be tough when it comes to mental health.
In high school, reaching out wasn’t so hard. Back then, I could easily connect with my friends after class or on the bus and could always go to them for support when I needed it. But, after graduation, almost all my friends moved to the city for study and work opportunities. Rather than following my peers I chose to stay in the country, preferring the quietness of the bush over the bustle of the city.
Even for someone who enjoys their own company, living rurally can be socially isolating. Living in a rural or regional area, I have less incidental contact with others, and less opportunities for someone to ask me, ‘R U OK?’. Whilst I love my life in the country, the remoteness has made me more susceptible to depression and loneliness. For this reason, I am always incredibly grateful when a friend reaches out to see how I’m doing.
If you know someone who lives in an isolated community, check in with them this RUOK day. Whilst asking ‘R U OK?’ may seem like a small gesture, that conversation could change someone’s life.
Kirra (she/her), 21 VIC
When I tried to kill myself on the 28th of March, I was ready. I had my note, and I was on my chair ready to jump, when my phone received a notification. I’m not very popular, but when I checked my phone, I had an Instagram message. It didn’t have much, but it was enough to make me stop and think, ‘Why am I doing this! People care’. I never tried again. The message read: “Hey, I know we don’t talk much, but I really do appreciate you and everything you do.” This person didn’t know it, but they saved my life that night.
River (They/Them), 16 NSW
Check in’s can really help friends through tough times
It is always so important to check in on friends. Over the last few weeks, one of the girls in my friend group and I have been getting close. Just yesterday, she messaged me to check in to see how I was outside of the group scenario. It was great – when I received the message it made me realise that even when I may be feeling down and struggling with work, family and life, there is always someone there for me. That people care about how I am and what is going on in my life. It also showed me that she really cared about what she could do to help me and what support she could provide for me.
Madieson (she/her), 24 WA