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‘How are you?’ times two

Sometimes people say they’re OK even when they’re not. Learn to spot some potential signs and commit to asking people twice.

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You’ll need

  • Device with access to the internet

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers

Setting up this activity

  • Let everyone know that you’re going to be talking about mental health in this session and remind them that they can take a step back from conversations at any time.
  • If you know anyone in the group has experience of mental health problems, talk to them (and their parents or carers) before the activity to make sure they're happy to take part and find out if you need to make any changes.
  • Make sure everyone knows where they can go for support if they or someone they know needs it. We’ve included some information below.
  • If you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card.

What's active listening?

  1. Gather everyone in a circle
  2. Explain that everyone will learn about active listening before learning to spot the signs that someone may not really mean it when they say they’re OK. They’ll also have the chance to pledge to ask people if they’re OK twice.
  3. Ask everyone what they think ‘active listening’ means in the context of mental health. Everyone should chat about how to be a good active listener - what do they think active listening involves?
  4. Now, introduce the five steps to good active listening - did people manage to think of them all, or did they come up with anything extra that’s not listed?

The five steps to good active listening

  1. Always listen closely. Especially when someone’s speaking about their mental health, try your best to focus on what they’re saying without getting distracted. There are lots of ways to show someone that you’re listening including facing them, making eye contact, and trying not to fidget. Not all of these things work for everyone (for example, some autistic people find it difficult to maintain eye contact), so find what works for you.
  2. Show interest. Once someone’s started talking to you, ask them questions about what they were saying to show you were listening and find out more about what they mean. If you feel able to, you could share some suggestions of things that have helped you if you’ve been in a similar situation – remember you’re talking about the other person though, so try not to talk for too long about yourself and don’t feel like you have to offer solutions.
  3. Be positive about the future. Sometimes, when people are feeling really low, it’s hard to imagine things getting better. Try to remind them that the future will get better and that there are people that they can turn to for support, including support services and charities (we’ve included some details below).
  4. Show you’re on their side. Try to make the person feel as comfortable as you can and don’t judge what they say. You don’t have to try to solve what they’re telling you: just being there to listen will make a huge difference.
  5. Get back in touch if you can. If you feel comfortable, get back in touch and see how the person’s getting on. Are things any better? Could you signpost them to any sources of support?

OK or OK?

  1. Ask everyone to split into small groups of four or five. Once the person leading the activity’s explained what to do, each group should go into their own breakout room.
  2. Everyone should come up with a sentence they’re going to say to the group. You could use any sentence for this activity – people will have to listen to both what you say and how you say it.
  3. Each person in the team should choose a number from one to five. They should keep their choice a secret.
  4. Everyone should look at the information below to see how they should say their sentence. Depending on the number they chose, they’ll have a different voice, speed, facial expression, and body language.
  5. The first person should say their sentence.
  6. Everyone else should work together to think about what the person said and how they said it. Would they just ask them if they’re OK once, or would they ask twice?
  7. Based on what the person said and how they said it, do people believe they’re really feeling OK? Why do they believe or doubt it?
  8. The next person should say their sentence and everyone should work together to decide whether they’d ask them if they were OK once or twice.
  9. Once everyone’s had a turn, the group should talk about how it felt to really listen in and think about how someone was feeling based on what they said and how they said it. Was it useful? How could this be helpful in real life?

How to say your sentence

If you chose number one: use a calm voice at a medium speed. Try to do your best smiling facial expression and keep your body language relaxed.

If you chose number two: use a raised voice at a fast speed. Try to do your best angry facial expression and keep your body language closed.

If you chose number three: use a soft voice at a slow speed. Try to do your best sad facial expression and keep your body language very closed.

If you chose number four: use a normal voice at a medium speed. Try to do your best confused facial expression and keep your body language unsure – you could try shrugging.

If you chose number five: use a panicked voice at a very fast speed, stopping and starting a lot. Try to do your best scared facial expression and keep your body language panicky.

Pledge to ask twice

  1. Everyone should come back together.
  2. Explain that people can practice asking twice anywhere – at home, at school, in person, or online. It’s especially important that people ask twice if they think someone may not really feel the way they say they do.
  3. People could share what happened in the activity – what signs made them think it was especially important to ask twice?
  4. Everyone should have the opportunity to pledge to ask twice. They could write their pledge down and commit to telling everyone how they’ve put it into action in four weeks’ time.
  5. Remind everyone that they don’t have to be an expert to talk about mental health. They don’t have to have all of the answers. Sometimes the most important thing to do is listen and share places people could go for further support.
  6. Tell everyone that they should never try to ‘diagnose’ anyone. They should make sure everyone knows what to do in an emergency and what to do if someone says something that makes them feel uncomfortable.

What to do in an emergency

In a medical emergency, always call 999. Speak calmly and clearly and give the operator as much detail as you can. You can ask a trusted adult to help you do this.

What to do if someone tells you something that makes you uncomfortable

  • If someone tells you something that makes you worried, for example, that they’ve been thinking about hurting themselves or someone else, it’s important not to deal with it on your own.
  • If someone tells you something worrying at Scouts, you should always tell the person in charge.
  • You should always tell a trusted adult (like a parent or teacher) as soon as you can. Try to give them as much detail as you can remember.
  • If someone tells you something and asks you to keep it a secret, you may not want to break their trust, or you may worry that they could fall out with you if you tell someone.
  • But if you don't feel comfortable with what they’ve told you, or you think they (or someone else) could be in danger, it’s important to tell a trusted adult what they’ve said.
  • You could tell them that you need to tell a trusted adult because you can’t deal with this yourself or you’re worried about them, but ask if there’s someone they’d prefer you to talk to.
  • It may feel like you’re breaking their trust, but telling a trusted adult will keep everyone safe.

Where to go for further support

For everyone:

  • Samaritans: call 116 123 or email
  • Shout: text SHOUT to 85258
  • Contact your GP: your GP can provide help, but there might be a longer wait.
  • Contact NHS 111 (known as NHS 24 in Scotland): 111 is available 24/7 for urgent medical care.

If you’re under 19:

  • Young Minds: text ‘YM’ to 85258.
  • Childline: call 0800 1111 or visit their website for information or to chat to a counsellor.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland:

For adult volunteers:

  • If you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare (including their online experiences), follow the Yellow Card.


Sometimes people aren’t entirely honest – they may say they’re feeling one way when they’re actually feeling something else. Why is it important to listen to what someone says and how they say it? How did it feel to practise really listening in? Why don’t people always say what they’re really feeling the first time? How can people encourage others to ask twice if they’re concerned about someone?

It’s important to remember that people don’t have to be experts with all the answers to talk to someone about mental health. Sometimes, people would benefit from some additional support. Does anyone remember where they could tell people to go if they need more help? How could people do this in a way that was supportive and kind?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Online safety

Supervise young people when they’re online and give them advice about staying safe. Take a look at our online safety or bullying guidance. The NSPCC offers more advice and guidance, too. If you want to know more about specific social networks and games, Childnet has information and safety tips for apps. You can also report anything that’s worried you online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection CommandAs always, if you’ve got concerns about a young person’s welfare, including their online experiences, follow the Yellow Card to make a report.

Phones and cameras

Make sure parents and carers are aware and have given consent for photography.

  • Be especially sensitive if anyone has experience of mental health problems – you may want to chat to them (and their parents and carers) before the activity to find out if there are any topics you should avoid. People only have to share as much as they want to. No one has to share their deepest secrets or feelings if they feel uncomfortable – they can still chat about their wellbeing and things that help on a day-to-day basis.
  • No one has to act a sentence out. They could pair up with someone else and help them plan their response, like a director might help an actor decide what to do.
  • Some people may find it easier to understand the concept of asking twice if you explain it in another way. Why not try creating a comic strip conversation? See an example comic strip conversation on the topic of bereavement. ​

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

If you enjoyed this activity and taking action to promote better mental health for all, why not learn more and become a Wellbeing Champion? Scouts have developed loads more activities as part of the A Million Hands partnership with Mind, SAMH and Inspire NI.

Everyone could create their own way of speaking and acting, using the table as a guide to get started.