With R U OK? day last week, and the question being asked to family and friends, it can be hard to know what to say when someone tells you they actually aren't okay.
Community Engagement Officer at Lithgow headspace, Steph Hart suggests the best thing to do at the time is listen.
"Don't interrupt them or judge them and don't try and offer solutions," she said.
"Just listen to them, make sure you understand what they're telling you and reflect your care and attention back to them by saying things like 'it sounds like things are pretty tough for you right now'."
The next step according to Steph, is to ask the person what they need right now.
"They might just need someone to listen to them, they might need a bit of space, or they might be ready to seek external support," she said.
If they are ready to seek external support, Steph said offering to go through the process with them is a huge support.
"This might be accompanying them to the GP or researching what services are available in your area," she said.
"Some conversations are too big for you take on alone and that's okay too."
Steph said it was important that before you ask the question, to be prepared for an answer other than 'Yes, I am okay'.
"Make sure you're ready to genuinely listen, devote time to the conversation and understand that you aren't there to 'fix' a problem," she said.
It is also important to choose somehow to ask the question where you won't be interrupted.
"Be prepared that the person might not be ready to open up to you, this is okay, let them know that you're there if and when they are ready," she said.
Controlling your initial reaction
When someone first opens up and tells you that they aren't okay, it is important to be 'honest and genuine'.
"Don't ridicule or downplay their concerns, if you're worried about them, you can express this too," Steph said.
"This might be the first time they're opening up about how they're feeling so let them speak and just sit with them while they do.
"You don't need to have the answers. In the moment that they're opening up to you, just be present and let them know you're available for a chat."
What to do after they've gotten help
Steph said it was important to continually check in on the people you care about.
"Call them in a couple of days, or arrange to meet up, ask again how they are going and if there are things you can do to help," she said.
"Stay in touch and be there for them - genuine care can make a real difference."
Steph said it was also important that people remember to look after their own mental health too.
"Supporting someone can be a lot for you to handle as well, take time for yourself and reach out to support if you need it," she said.
"Don't put off asking for help."
Doctors asking to check in
Rural doctors are asking everyone in their communities to check in with a mate.
"Uncertainty, lockdowns, isolation, social distancing... the past six months have been the toughest in living memory for Australians," President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia, Dr Hall said.
"Everyone has been impacted by COVID-19 in some way and many, many people are finding aspects difficult to cope with.
"In rural areas, often the isolation is felt even more keenly, particularly by those without friends and family close by when travel is restricted."
Dr Hall said government support can help keep people going financially but if you are out of work or unable to travel to work, this can cause stress and anxiety.
"There are farmers working day and night to harvest crops or pick fruit without being able to source the mobile workforce that is usually available," he said.
"Some people are isolated and stuck in their houses with no structure and limited social interactions."
Dr Hall said he had already seen more mental health presentations and an increase in people who haven't previously experienced mental health issues.
"Don't hesitate to ask for help, there are things we can do to break the cycle, improve your mood and stave off or manage depression and anxiety," he said.
"Your rural doctor is here to listen, in person, or via telehealth, mental illness is no different to physical illness.
"We see it every day, your visit is completely confidential and we are ready and willing to help you however we can."
If you or anyone you know needs help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com