Worried About Their Addiction And Mental Health? How To Ask R U OK?

Worried About Addiction? How To Ask R U OK?

Addiction and mental health disorders go hand in hand. If your loved one is suffering from addiction, chances are they will be suffering from one, or more, mental health conditions too. So there is never a better time than today to ask them if they are ok.

How to know if you should ask

You may already know your loved one is drinking excessively or using drugs, you may just have a feeling, or know something is not right. If they aren’t behaving as they normally would, or seem out of sorts, or are more agitated or withdrawn, trust your gut instinct and just ask. It could save their lives.

By just mentioning the changes you’ve noticed in them, you could help them open up and start to talk about something they have been afraid to, or embarrassed to talk about.

If your loved one says they are not ok, you can follow the steps below to make sure they know there is help available to them and that you will help and support them as well. If they are ok, they’ll know you’re someone who cares enough to ask and that if they need to talk in the future, they can.

If your loved one is suffering from addiction they might say everything is alright, even when it’s not. They simply may not want to talk about it. They might not think they have a problem. They might not be ready to open up. But by asking you are letting them know that it’s ok to talk and you will be ready to talk and help when they need you.

How to ask RU OK?

This can be the hardest part and you might be scared to ask. But just try to be relaxed, friendly and concerned. Try starting with a simple question and mention something specific that has concerned you, for example: “How are you? You seem a bit more withdrawn than usual, is everything ok?”

What to do if they say “no”

  • Listen, and acknowledge that yes, they are doing it tough.
  • Empathise – try to focus on listening on what they are saying rather than talking at them. Try to ensure it is a two-way conversation.
  • Let them know it’s common that people suffering from mental health issues also suffer from addiction and visa versa.
  • Avoid accusations – keep the conversation positive and upbeat, and avoid using scare tactics. Ensure there is no blaming, aggression or critical reactivity.
  • Don’t reveal past drug or alcohol use – studies have shown children don’t perceive drugs and alcohol use as being bad for them if they’ve been told about their parents’ alcohol or drug use.
  • Explain that you love them and will support them.
  • Let them know that there is always hope and that professional help is available should they want it.
  • Tell them that although you may not be able to relate directly to their feelings, you want to understand it better.
  • Agree to talk often and regularly – don’t simply have the talk and never bring it up again. Offer to sit with them again soon or arrange to catch up for a coffee.
  • Encourage them to see a professional. You could say, “It might be helpful to talk with someone who can support you. I’m happy to assist you to find the right person to talk to.”
  • Call us on 1300 856 847 and talk to one of our staff members to receive education and support in how to help a loved one with addiction.

Addiction and suicide

People suffering from addiction are at high risk of suicide, with alcohol abuse being found to contribute to up to 50 percent of suicides. Substance abuse is the second most common risk factor for suicide.

Young adults and adolescents are the highest risk age group for suicide, but the risk of suicide with concurrent alcohol addiction issues increases with age, often driven by life management issues that occur as a result of addiction, such as family breakdowns, criminal activity, financial difficulties and social isolation.

Alcohol and drug abuse can increase vulnerability to suicide in three ways:

  • Alcohol and other drugs, especially opioids, maintain a depressive effect within the body – which impairs judgment and problem solving abilities and also prompts individuals to show a lack of restraint in disregard for social conventions, impulsivity, and poor risk assessment.
  • The abuse of alcohol and other drugs can increase social risk factors – which include family breakdown, criminal justice issues, financial difficulties and social isolation.
  • Underlying common factors such as mental illness, genetic predisposition, low socioeconomic status and other life factors can predispose individuals to both suicidal thoughts and drug abuse.

About RU OK? Day

RU OK? Day is a national day of action to remind us that any time is good to ask the question “Are you OK?”

RU OK? focuses on the lack of connection and lack of belonging that people can feel by inspiring people to take the time to ask “are you OK?”. Providing connection has been proven to make a positive difference, long before anyone thinks of suicide.


  1. Suicide Prevention Australia – Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide Prevention. 2011.
  2. RU OK? – “What we’re about”. 2018.
  3. Beck A.T: “Clinical Predictors of Eventual Suicide: A 5-10 year prospective study of suicide attempts” Journal of Affective Disorders, 1989 (Nov-Dec) 17(3) 203-209
  4. Buddy, T: “Alcoholics’ Suicide Risk Increases with Age”

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