Make sure that you are showing empathy, not sympathy, when asking someone if they are really doing ok.
That was a piece of advice shared with parishioners across Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains on national R U OK?Day.
During Thursday night’s ‘BE MET’ Night, Melisa Kheirallah, the Diocese of Parramatta’s Human Resources Manager, used R U OK?Day to explain to parishioners about how to check in on people’s mental health, and suggestions on what to do next when somebody says that they are not ok.
Before asking if somebody is ok, Melisa explained that people might be showing signs that they might need extra support and that their body language might be saying something that words may not.
If you notice a chance in their physical appearance, their mood, their behaviour or how their thoughts are expressed, then perhaps it is time to start a conversation, Melisa said.
“A lot of us tend to think to ourselves that ‘it’s none of my business, I’m not going to ask’ when it’s somebody that you may not be as familiar with having these kinds of conversations. I do encourage you [as] it’s better to ask than to not ask.
“Having someone show they care can make all the difference for someone feeling overwhelmed or distressed,” she added.
When asking someone if they are ok, Melisa encouraged participants to use R U OK’s four conversation steps:
- Ask are you ok – pick an appropriate place and the right time to do so.
- Listen with an open mind – don’t try to fix the problem right away and don’t rush or interrupt them.
- Encourage Action – help to think of steps to manage their situation, such as speaking to family and friends, or medical professionals.
- Check In – follow up and ask how they have been going. If they aren’t ready to chat, encourage them to speak to someone they trust.
“If you don’t want to use the term, ‘are you ok’, there are a lot of different ways to ask that question. It might be, ‘how are you feeling’, ‘what’s been happening’, ‘what’s going on,’ ‘do you want to talk.’ There’s lots of different ways that you can frame the question, but it’s an important one to ask,” she said.
Participants were then shown a short clip of the difference between empathy and sympathy, as described by American professor and lecturer Dr Brené Brown.
The video mentions four qualities of empathy – perspective-taking, staying out of judgement, recognising emotion in other people and then communicating that.
“Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection,” Dr Brown says.
Participants were asked to share ways that they approach others to check if they are ok.
Raimie from the Mission Enhancement Team finds memes or videos and shares them with people to start a conversation and to see how they are going.
Rebecca from Holy Name of Mary Parish, Rydalmere, tries booking in virtual coffees with her work colleagues and calls people to pray a morning prayer with her so that she speaks to a non-work person in her day.
Donnie from the Mission Enhancement Team then showed a video of young “joy experts” sharing what they do when their parents aren’t feeling ok, with a range of adorable answers.
“Remember to stay connected and make asking ‘are you ok?’ part of your every day,” Melisa concluded.
Catholic Youth Parramatta has launched a brand-new initiative, With You, with a range of resources for young people struggling with their mental health during this time. They will also be running a range of free workshops for young people throughout next week between 6.30pm and 7.30pm via Zoom on topics such as songwriting, photography and a TikTok tutorial.
In the final week of our HOME Ground program, we’re going out with a bang!
- Monday will feature a follow-up session from the recent Euthanasia discussions, led by two Diocese of Parramatta Deacons who are also medical professionals.
- Tuesday will feature an intimate session on natural family planning which is open to couples and young women wanting to learn about their menstrual health.
- Wednesday will feature a very special international guest for Worship Wednesday ALL STARS – stay tuned for the guest announcement!
- Thursday’s ‘BE MET’ Night will allow the Diocese of Parramatta to gather to bless our Plenary Council Members ahead of the First Assembly at the beginning of October.
Visit parracatholic.org/homeground to register for any of these programs.
The R U OK? website has a range of resources to help kickstart these important conversations. If you require further information, urgent help or support on issues raised in this article, please contact the following services: CatholicCare on (02) 8843 2500, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
Watch the R U OK?-themed ‘BE MET’ Night session, here on Facebook or below.