8 September is R U OK? Day.

It is a great opportunity to check in with your friends, colleagues and loved ones, including those with a disability. It only takes a simple question to start a conversation – ‘Are you OK?’

As per a recent study carried out by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), people with disability are 4 times more likely to experience higher psychological or mental distress than those without any disability.

Younger people and men with disability are more vulnerable than older adults and women when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.

The recent pandemic has also disrupted routines and left people with disability at risk of feeling isolated and disconnected from the community.’

Remember, you don’t have to be an expert or a trained counsellor to ask someone how they are doing. You just need to be a good listener.

There’s no one way to have an R U OK? conversation, but these four steps are a helpful framework:  

  • Ask: Pick the right moment and ask R U OK? in a way that feels right for you.  
  • Listen: Listen without judgement. Don’t rush or interrupt, but encourage them to explain what’s going on for them.  
  • Encourage Action: Ask what they’ve done in the past that has helped. There might be something practical you can do, or you could help them access professional support.  
  • Check in: Stay in touch after the initial conversation. Check in to ask how they’re feeling and if things have improved. Stay connected so they’ll know you’re there for them.  

It is okay to ask for help, so please don’t hesitate to speak up.  

For more information on dealing with mental health issues for people with disability, visit the Disability Gateway.