Critical Incident Response

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This September 10, the message of RU OK? Day will centre on “There’s More to Say After RU OK?”. PeopleSense by Altius Psychologist, Jaydene Tucker, explains why this year, it’s more important than ever to follow through if the response is “no”.

Australians have faced a challenging year, beginning with bushfires, leading into the pandemic. Varying periods of isolation have made it even more important for us all to stay connected and, for those who are able, to be willing to support those around us.

This year’s R U OK? Day is focussing on educating Australians to know what to say when someone says they’re not OK and how to guide them through a conversation that could change a life.

You don’t have to be an expert to keep the conversation going when someone says they’re not OK. By knowing what to say you can help someone feel supported and access appropriate help long before they’re in crisis, which can make a really positive difference to their life.

The R U OK workplace guide recommends you follow these four steps:

  1. Ask
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check in



How do you know when is appropriate to ask? There are many signs to look out for and some may be more obvious than others, such as:

  • You notice a change in a colleague’s appearance, such as appearing tired, seeming flat or run down.
  • Changes in their eating or use of substances such as coffee, energy drinks, smoking, alcohol, prescription medications or illicit drugs.
  • The employee may be complaining of physical health issues, such as headaches, stomach problems or generally being run down.
  • You notice changes in a colleague’s mood, such as being snappier or appearing overwhelmed by things that were previously manageable.
  • There are changes in their behaviour, like withdrawing socially, making less time for enjoyable activities, and changes in normal performance.
  • Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in their thinking, like finding it difficult to see positives, assuming the worst and personalising things.
  • They have made complaints about having difficulty winding down after work or are constantly working outside of usual business hours.

RU OK? Day has some great conversation starters such as: “I’ve noticed a few changes in what you’ve been saying / doing. How are things for you at the moment?” and “With everything that’s been going on, you’ve been on my mind lately, how are you?”.

It’s all well and good to ask the question, but there’s a few other important pieces to the conversation.


It’s critical when you’re planning to ask the question that you’ve factored in time to listen. Active listening can help keep the conversation going. The RU OK? website has some great suggestions to help you display that you’re listening, such as “It sounds like that would be really tough. How are you going with managing it?”.

Be prepared for situations where someone responds with they’re not ok and are not managing. It’s equally as important that you are ready for a situation where someone does not wish to discuss what’s going on for them and that you are respectful towards their stance.

Encourage Action

There is often a lot of fear about asking the question, in case someone discloses that they aren’t ok. RU OK? conversations are a great opportunity to encourage people to take action to support their mental health.

There is a wealth of support available for people. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be a valuable resource to connect fellow employees with the psychological support they may need. Most organisations have a Manager Assistance Program (MAP) as part of an EAP package and this can be a valuable support for managers who feel they need to broach the conversation with a team member.

At PeopleSense by Altius, we’ve been supporting employees, team leaders and managers throughout 2020 as they deal with so many changing circumstances online through Telehealth and, for those who are able, through face to face counselling.

By referring to an EAP you can rest assured a fellow employee is receiving advice from professionally trained psychologists. The Employee Assistance Program provides solution-focused short-term interventions including:

  • Counselling for a range of personal issues, with access to critical incident response 24/7/365 days
  • Wellbeing coaching to proactively promote health
  • Coaching to achieve personal or work-related goals
  • Assistance in achieving a better work life balance

EAP services are external and confidential and are guided by the individual’s needs. Remember that the EAP service can help you and your employees when they are not OK, but it can also help them to be proactive to stay OK.

An employee doesn’t have to be unwell or struggling to access their EAP. Proactive support during difficult times as well as less difficult times can go a long way in promoting resilience over the longer term, through enhancing coping strategies and focusing on wellbeing.

PeopleSense by Altius psychologists are also available for appointments through a GP mental health plan.


After having the conversation and offering support, it’s important to check back in and ask “How have you been since we last chatted?” and to check whether further support or follow up is needed.