Lifeline is a mental health helpline, providing support to the English-speaking community within China. As a helpline, the organization has held a reactive approach to supporting people who contact them for need, as opposed to reaching out to those who need the help in advance. Lifeline had recognized the need to start conversations about mental health to break the stigma associated with it, hence why they have teamed up with the Australian charity "R U OK", and have developed a workshop that can teach members of communities how to support peers who are in need and who may be thinking about suicide
R U OK, What Is It?
R U OK? was started in 2009 by Gavin Larkin. The founder had experienced a tragedy when he was young when his father Barry Larkin had taken his own life in 1995. Wanting to help others that suffered the same struggles that his family had to go through, Gavin championed a question in honor of Barry: "are you okay?"
Lifeline had teamed up with R U OK for the first time in 2016, pushing an awareness campaign by providing workshops to communities, teaching them the skills to help communicate and connect with people they care about who are struggling with life. The workshop is an interactive experience, helping participants build the confidence to reach out and support others. The program is based on four steps, designed to help people learn how to hold meaningful conversations with those closest to them.
The Superheroes Leading the Charge
The workshops are lead by trained Lifeline volunteers, who have taken on the passion to enrich communities and teach people the importance of meaningful connection. On top of the in-depth training program that the volunteers undergo to effectively support callers, they will also take on specific training to facilitate the workshop and teach valuable communication skills to the participants.
Interested in Getting Involved?
The community workshop is welcome to anyone. The only requirement needed is for participants to come ready to connect with others and to be respectful to the learning process. Participants need to understand that they will be asked to think about people they know who may be concerned about, so they can apply the skills effectively to their own life. Empowerment is a key value of these workshops.
Because the workshop is interactive, there is a limit of 20 people per workshop in order to maximize the impact of the lessons. This ensures that participants leave feeling confident to support someone they care about.
The workshop starts with ice-breakers and stretching, a simple warm-up for the participants. Participants can expect to receive some valuable guidance on the steps to having a meaningful conversation, as well as some training in suicide ideation that destigmatizes conversations about suicide and informs about why it’s important to ask someone you’re concerned about how they’re doing.
Throughout the workshop, participants will build the confidence to apply the skills and knowledge learned. This will include, but is not limited to: looking for signs of risk, checking in with oneself, active listening, awareness of the signs that someone could be having thoughts of suicide, and understanding that it’s ok to ask. These skills are not just for someone in crisis. The focus of the R U OK? program is on prevention, and Lifeline wants to help members of the community to connect with their peers who may be struggling long before suicide even comes to mind; to give the support they need
Eyes On The Future
Lifeline has a goal of offering monthly community workshops, with the next one on March 10. If people are interested in participating more, know that the fourth annual "R U OK? Day" will be on April 17. Lifeline will be bringing together people from all across the city and from different communities, to take part in interactive workshops, forums and presentations on health and wellbeing. The theme for this year is Trust the Signs – Ask R U OK?
Final Words To Share
Suicide prevention is a complex and socially sensitive topic, and for many people, it's hard to communicate to people about such a personal issue. Lifeline and R U OK understand that on the outside, asking "are you okay?" may seem like a simple enough question, but the true power in those words is the impact it may have on someone. It takes practice to build strong and healthy communication with people in need, but also know that maybe it doesn't take an expert – it can just be someone who cares.
It all comes down to regular, face-to-face, meaningful conversations. Asking “Are you OK?” is a great place to start.
Join the workshop and learn the four steps:
1. Ask R U OK?
3. Encourage Action
4. Check in
If in need, call Lifeline at 400 821 1215, or contact them on WeChat: LifelineConnect.
SmartShanghai has a Mental Wellbeing Directory, where users can find hospitals and clinics with specialized services. If people seek aid, or know someone else who does, click here to be redirected to the page.
SmartShanghai has also written an article about depression and how to respond to it: When All Else Fails: Depression from the Inside and What to Do.