R U OK? want to remind everyone that Christmas can be a difficult time for many Australians and encourage them to make a real difference in someone’s life by giving the ‘Gift of Conversation’.
More than two million people experience social isolation at Christmas and the R U OK? Gift Guide provides ideas to support family, friends, and colleagues, along with tips on how to ‘Give the Gift of Conversation’ to someone who might be struggling at this time of year.
“Think about the people in your world who may be struggling and make time to check in with them,” says Annie Fardell Hartley, suicidologist and registered psychologist.
“Missing loved ones who are no longer with us, being unable to travel to join family and friends, financial pressure, illness or not being able to meet seasonal expectations and demands. For some it can also be a time of stress, deadlines and conflict.”
“Instead of feeling festive, happy and loved, people might feel lonely, be grieving, sad, nostalgic, frustrated or stressed. By asking R U OK? and giving the ‘Gift of Conversation’ this Christmas – you are able to make a difference to the people in your world.”
Sam Neill, Layne Beachley, Jimmy Barnes, Bianca Dye and Barry Conrad are supporting the campaign by lending their voices to the R U OK? adaptation of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore over the next two weeks.
“I think this message from R U OK? is one that really needs to be heard.?It has been a hard couple of years, and I feel sure we now all have a better understanding of how loneliness and disconnection can impact on our lives,” said actor and R U OK? Ambassador, Sam Neill.
“This Christmas, this holiday season, no matter what our circumstances, we can ALL make a difference – by giving the gift of conversation to people we know. ?Particularly those who might be struggling, and so many do at this time of the year.
To help people know when and how to give the ‘Gift of Conversation’, free downloadable resources are available on the R U OK? website including suggestions on how best to support someone at this time of year from Suicidologist and Registered Psychologist Annie Fardell Hartley:
1. Make the time
Think about the people in your world who may be struggling and make time to check in with them. You might start with a text, send them a card, tee up a walk, call them on the phone or drop by for a visit. Even if you are not sure exactly what to say, the simple act of asking how they are and listening while they talk lets them know you care.
2. Acknowledge it
Let them know it’s OK to feel overwhelmed, sad, or stressed at this time of the year. Allow them to pause and reflect on their emotions.?Acknowledging what they are feeling, physically and mentally, can help them manage the intensity of the emotion they might be feeling.
3. Be gentle
If someone doesn’t feel able to celebrate in the same way as they have in the past, give them space to set boundaries or adapt their routine or put their routine on hold for the year. Support them if they tell you they need some time for themselves this year. Instead of celebrating they might like to spend time volunteering to help others, visiting a favourite place or connecting with others in a similar situation.
4. Old traditions and new traditions
Established traditions of the season might cause sadness if someone is grieving, can’t be with loved ones or is financially stretched. If old traditions no longer bring joy perhaps think about new traditions, you can set up to mark the season.
For those who are grieving, talk to them about how they would like to include their loved one in the season. They might want to set a place at the table, display a special ornament, donate a gift in their honour or decorate their final resting place.
If loved ones are separated by distance you can use technology to help them be a part of the day, adapt your traditions to the circumstances or perhaps plan another celebration for when everyone can be together.
If finances are tight, it is worth remembering that our time is a special gift for those we care about. You can also organise Kris Kringle challenges that don’t involve shopping (make your own, perform a song, gift your time to help with a project or share a walk etc.) host a potluck dinner or plan a celebration with a focus on games and activities rather than opening presents.
5. Offer practical support
If someone isn’t ready to talk, think about what practical support you can provide. Whether it is making a cuppa, helping with childcare, or cooking a meal, small gestures can be comforting for those finding the season difficult.
It’s also worth reminding them that support services such as Lifeline and BeyondBlue operate 24/7 over the holiday period if they need a listening ear.
‘Don’t let it be a silent night: Give the ‘Gift of Conversation’. Learn how at www.ruok.org.au
If you or someone you know needs some extra support this Christmas, and all year round, visit the R U OK? directory of national support and services here. For support at any time of day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.