Its RUOK day (10 Sept 2020), which is a day when we are all encouraged to check in with your mates, and give them the opportunity to be heard.  The official website, www.ruok.org.au, encourages us all to: Ask, Listen, Encourage action, and Check in.  Ask “R U OK?”, then Listen without judgement and with patience, Encourage Action by asking what they can do to receive further help or what you can do to help, then Check in by telling them you would like to catch up again in a week or so (and actually do this).  There is some great tips about each of these four steps on the website, above. 

At Risk Youth

Phone your mates
Photo by energepic.com from Pexels.

However, what about those “at risk youth” who have disengaged from their support networks (e.g., family or school) and who would not trust someone coming up to them asking “R U OK?” A recent article by Rosenberg, Ophir, and Billig (2020) suggests that the detached youth may respond to a “OMG, R U OK” message using popular social media sites such as WhatsApp and Instagram. When interviewing 17 youth workers (who work daily with this population) about how to engage with the detached youth population, answers indicated that social media is perceived as an enabler, allowing a deeper contact.  Further, social media allows that connection to be maintained, allowing for long term connection. Using social media, the youth perceive it as you “connecting with them in a way that they prefer”. Further, social media is perceived as a safe method by the detached youth to express their thoughts, feelings and frustrations.  Finally, social media was a way to provide therapeutic intervention, which may not have been provided otherwise.  It was concluded that the use of social media apps, such as WhatsApp or Instagram, for detached youth, is an avenue to connect with this population who are known to be difficult to connect with.

What do I take from this recent article?  If you know a detached youth, who may distrust someone coming up to them and asking “R U OK?”, consider using Instagram or WhatsApp to reach out. I know I will be.


RUOK? (n.d.) RUOK? A conversation could change a life. https://www.ruok.org.au/

Rosenberg, H., Ophir, Y., & Billig, M. (2020). OMG, R U OK?: Using Social Media to Form Therapeutic Relationships with Youth at Risk. Children and youth services review, 105365. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105365