R U OK? Day

09 September 2021

"Are you okay?”

These three simple words can make a world of a difference.

A few years ago, I burst into tears at my workplace when my manager said this to me. It was not until after an hour of making a mistake that she came to me and asked this question politely. I had spilled a coffee all over the floor while making it, because I was hurrying too much, thinking that I was very slow in making the coffee.

For context, I was a new employee and had not gained much experience instantly. My manager gave me some time to settle, observed me, came to me and asked me how I was. She did not scold me for making this mistake – but rather, she just believed in me and thought that I might be going through something, which was true. I could not comprehend initially why it made me cry but her way of asking made me emotional. I felt like someone was there to listen to my concerns and help me out. It was very hard to open up. I did not even know what to start with.

We all experience life’s ups and downs. Some of our stressors include grief, relationship breakdowns, financial difficulty, or losing a job, etc. These moments challenge us and sadly many people think they don’t have anyone to confide in. Everyone has a different coping strategy and stress threshold. I sometimes cry about nothing and realise afterwards it was due to the accumulation of small stressors over time. Explaining this perfectly is the Stress Bucket, which can eventually overflow.

Eventually, I told my manager that I was stressed about my approaching exams and assignment deadlines. She asked me to go home, get my study done and directed me to workplace counsellors which was a great help.

So if you’re reading this, please take a minute to reflect on whether you’re truly okay. You may be feeling isolated or disconnected.

If so, this is your reminder: opening up and seeking help is a strength, not a weakness. Whether it’s confiding in a friend or calling a support helpline, seeking help makes you brave.

If you have the capacity to, you can support others around you. When noticing the signs from your friend, colleague, loved one, teammate or neighbour, trust that gut instinct, reach out and ask them and how they are doing.

The suicide prevention charity, R U OK?, details 4 simple steps that could change a life:

1. Asking ‘Are you okay?’

2. Listening

3. Encouraging action

4. Checking in

You don’t have to wait until they are in crisis. The earlier you reach out, the better. For example, being an international student away from home including your native culture, language, locality, relatives, food, family and many more aspects is not easy, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, getting connected to the wider community can be very helpful. If you are an international student, StudyPerth can help you stay in touch with the international student community. StudyPerth organises events either for free or at reasonable prices, giving an opportunity for the international students to connect, feel engaged and have fun together.

For instance, StudyPerth organised a R U OK Hug Hang (supported by Lotterywest) that included cuddling therapy dogs, cupcakes, a grazing table, and a lovely speech from my fellow ambassadors Jian Zhao. We are all a family – and we hope to support and connect with you one day!

Remember, you are not alone.

By Vishwa Patel

Stay tuned for StudyPerth wellbeing support services being launched in October.