4 Steps to Start a Mental Wellbeing Conversation

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Cam Mutton

September 12, 2019

8 Australians die by Suicide Every Single Day. What can you do to help?

Mental Health issues are affecting everyone in our community with an alarming 65,000 suicide attempts in Australia each year. A Beyond Blue study also showed that doctors’ stress levels were higher than any other healthcare professionals, especially doctors under 30 and undergoing training.

The stigma associated with mental health amongst doctors is significant - with 40% of doctors feeling that acknowledging personal mental health concerns would make them seem perceived as less competentThat’s why it’s essential we all understand the role we each play in preventing suicides, and how starting a conversation with our family, friends or colleagues could help save their lives

RUOK day Doctor with patient | Wavelength Medical Recruitment

R U Ok Day is a national day of action dedicated to reminding everyone that any day is the day to ask “Are you ok?”

We spoke with Dr Mahendra Perera, a Wavelength Psychiatrist with over 30 years’ experience, to tell us how to check-in with someone you are worried about.

What things should you look out for if you are worried about someone?

The main thing you should look out for is a change of behaviour – perhaps they’re not dressed properly or they’re not acting their usual selves.

It’s important to understand whether it is a one-off (we all have days where we forget to iron a shirt) or whether it’s a repeated pattern.

What should the next steps be?

Have an empathic approach – start the conversation by asking if they’re ok and assure them that the conversation is in confidence (for doctors that is within the limits of professional bounds). Try to find out what is going on if they are willing to share with you. This may take more than one conversation.

If the person you are concerned about is in denial, perhaps flag it with someone else close to that person to see if they have also noticed the changes you have or whether they have had any concerns.

In the medical workplace, you might discuss what steps should be taken to help the individual in distress in confidence with the Unit Manager or the Clinical Director.

Try not to take on too much responsibility yourself. Be upfront with the person you’re trying to help and say you have noticed that they have not been themselves. If they’re not willing to open up, you could suggest they seek help from other professional sources such as a GP, councillor or helpline.

Always ensure that you stay non-judgemental and that your demeanour remains non-threatening.

And don’t forget, before you help someone else, you need to take care of yourself. It’s ok to ask for help too, you don’t have to do it all.

4 Steps to start a conversation that matters

Steps to start a mental wellbeing conversation

R U OK? offers great tips on how to start a conversation with someone you’re worried about. Ask R U Ok? Listen without judgement. Encourage action. Check-in with them again – stay in touch.

Fortunately, there are many sources that you can seek help from, such as:

Mental health wellness is a number one concern in the medical industry, with first responders and medical staff seeing and dealing with stressful and traumatising situations on a regular basis. Not only that, but the long hours, training programs and pressure on doctors, all have a massive impact on their mental wellbeing.

To support our doctors, we've partnered with Lysn, a mental health and wellbeing platform founded by Dr Jonathan King, to offer tailored training courses and easy access to professional mental health support.


All Wavelength doctors will gain exclusive access when the platform launches. In the meantime, you can learn more about Lysn on their website here.

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