Written by Angela Gaylard, People & Culture Manager at Youth Projects 

Research tells us that one in five Australians suffer from poor mental health (ABS. 2022) and one in four feel lonely (Lim. 2018) and has no one they feel they can speak to. It is definitely not sunshine and rainbows out there.  

At Youth Projects it is no different. We know that over 70% of our crew identify as someone that has lived or are currently experiencing poor mental health and that percentage is even higher amongst our clients.  

Starting the conversation and asking someone if they are okay can be hard, and as important as it is, it can often feel very uncomfortable. That is exactly why we are big champions of creating safe spaces, normalising conversations, and promoting self-determination with both our crew and clients.  

While we are not a group of organisational psychologists, we do know a thing or two about a judgment-free approach, meeting people where they are at, and client-centered servicing, so we thought we would share what works for us.  

Educate yourself on what to look out for  

Poor mental health can present in a huge range of different ways, but we always keep an eye out for mood changes, withdrawal from the team or social situations, trouble with concentration, increased lateness or absenteeism, and presenting or acting anxious. 

Know what questions to ask 

Before asking anything, be prepared to show vulnerability and empathy. Make sure you have the space and time for it. When we start these conversations, we always make sure it is personal, we are coming from a place of genuine care and compassion and we ask, “what would you like me to do?”. 

Create safe spaces  

You don’t need a physical space, but you do need to start the conversation somewhere private and confidential. If you don’t have this, go for a walk around the block 😊  

Just listen, you don’t need to fix it 

No explanation is needed, it is that simple.  

Know the referral pathways  

If someone raises things they are struggling with, make sure you have referral pathways on hand to provide them.

Some helpful referral pathways might include: 

Follow up  

We always make sure we check back in. If there was an action either of you said you would take, make sure it has been completed. If you have seen positive changes, point them out, show them that they are seen, and that you are invested in them. We also use follow-ups to adjust or alter strategies as needed. 

Have your own debrief process  

Make sure you have your own people to talk to and you give yourself time to debrief on the conversations you have had. Debriefs can help shed light on how to refine your conversations and processes all while protecting your own emotional wellbeing. 

R U Okay Day is a National Day of Action when we remind Australian that every day is the day to ask, ‘Are you Okay?’ and start meaningful conversations whenever they spot the signs that someone they care about might be struggling with life.