Providing Social Support — RU OK?

Posted by | September 07, 2018 | R U OK?, Social Support | No Comments

By Assoc. Prof. John Malouff

Want to do some good for others? Want to save a life? Read on.

The RU OK movement promotes providing others with social support when they seem to be struggling. The main goal of the movement is to prevent suicide.

Seeing who's struggling isn't always obvious. Chances are one of you needs to talk.The movement does not actually suggest asking: “Are you OK?” That is a closed-ended question likely to elicit a meaningless response.

The social support elements suggested by RU OK start with noticing when someone appears to be struggling psychologically. Distressed individuals show signs in their functioning, their tone of voice, their facial expression, and so on.

The second step involves making a gentle comment about the signs and asking the person an open-ended question about himself or herself. For instance: “I noticed that you’ve looked sad the past few days. What is going on in your life?”

The third step involves listening attentively and non-judgmentally to what the person says. Nodding and summarizing what the person says helps to deepen the connection and to facilitate communication. Staying calm and focused helps to set a good model.

The fourth step involves encouraging action. I often do this by asking the person: “What have you tried to get past that?” or “What will you do about that?” or “What can I do to help you?” I provide information or other assistance (e.g., a ride) when that might help.

The final step involves following up with the person later. Here we can use the same actions as in the prior steps to continue to show caring and to provide social support.

The RU OK website provides additional valuable information for helping family members and others who are struggling. 


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