Posted September 28, 2020
Every year we talk about R U OK Day and bringing the struggles of mental health out into the open by starting a conversation with the simple question – “are you ok?”. The rise of this day in the Australian calendar each year should absolutely be applauded, but in a year like no other, now is the time for us to be asking the deeper questions, and considering what we need to say and how we can respond once we get an answer to this question, “are you ok?”.
The premise behind R U OK Day is to begin a conversation, but many of us struggle with the follow-up question or formulating the right response if someone tells us that they are, in fact, not doing great. Particularly as business owners, not only are we asking these tough questions of our friends and family, but of our staff and colleagues, and right now, more often than not, the answer is more along the lines of “no” than “yes”. So, what are we supposed to say next? How do we help our peers or our staff have an honest dialogue about their feelings or mental health struggles?
Whether you’re having this conversation by text, on the phone, through Facetime or in person, make sure you encourage your peer or team member to continue talking. Now is not the time to say, “well that sucks” or “well, it’s hard for everyone isn’t it”. What you should instead be trying to do is provide that person with an environment that fosters an open and honest conversation, and the easiest way to do that is to continue asking open-ended questions (so, questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no) to keep their response engaged. Consider continuing the conversation by asking about their feelings, when they started thinking this way, or what you can do to support them. Sometimes people simply want to be heard, and it’s important that you do that as the person they are opening up to.
It’s important to consider the timing of these questions, and if you truly think someone is struggling then dedicate time to talk to them specifically. Often these conversations will be more than just a quick couple of minutes between clients, and so if you observe that an industry peer isn’t themselves at the moment or a staff member is truly struggling in their work, dedicate time to both hear them and help them – block it out in your diary and commit to listening and empathising with them. Particularly with your employees, you want them to know that you’re always available should they ever need your support, and it’s important to ask these questions all year round – not just around R U OK Day.
If beginning a conversation about mental health opens up a broader issue or troubles bigger than you believe you can handle, it’s always advisable to suggest seeking the help of a professional. Sometimes these issues are too big for us to tackle alone, and it’s important to seek the right advice from the right people, particularly in a time of crisis. Contacting Lifeline on 13 11 14 can be a great place to start or BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the state of play in your salon, please speak to the HABA team by calling (02) 9221 9911 or emailing email@example.com
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