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Jessica Lewis

27 August 2020

The power of asking ‘R U OK’? Why Arts student Jessica wants you to have ‘the chat’

Hands up if 2020 has been a major letdown for you? Yep, that’s what we thought. Your plans for travelling, socialising and meeting new friends have been put on hold, and your university experience has been vastly different to what you dreamed of at the start of the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also added layers of uncertainty, fear and bad news to our everyday lives, while things we used to take for granted may not be possible for some time to come.

All of this makes looking out for one another more crucial than ever before. In times of stress and hardship, being there for your friends, family and peers is a priceless gift.

Thursday 10 September is R U OK? Day

On R U OK? Day, we encourage everyone to ask the people close to them the simple question: ‘Are you okay?’ Reaching out, staying connected and having meaningful conversations is something we can all do. You don’t need to be an expert – just a good friend and a great listener.

If you notice someone who might be struggling, start a conversation. Because it could change their life.

Meet Jessica, Deakin student and R U OK? Day advocate

Jessica Lewis

Jessica Lewis wants you to ask your mates ‘R U OK’?

Second-year Bachelor of International Studies student Jessica Lewis became involved with R U OK? Day in high school. She tells us why the cause is so close to her heart and how we can all help to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues.

Growing up, I never liked the idea that sometimes we can feel so alone in the world. The high school I attended promoted R U OK? Day each year and I fell in love with the message of staying connected and regularly checking in with each other, especially the people in our lives we sometimes miss in our day-to-day routines.

Sadly, during Year 12, a close friend passed away and the R U OK? message became even more important in my life. I became involved in organising that year’s R U OK? Day events, holding a social walk to start student conversations. I also did the inaugural K’s for R U OK? Challenge to start conversations among my family, friends and colleagues. With the support and encouragement of those around me, I walked every day in July, finishing with a total of 214 km and raising $600. 

The R U OK? Day campaign reminds us to look out for our mates and check in with each other, especially when things get tough. It highlights that we’re all in this together; that no situation is too difficult that we can’t reach out for help. To me, R U OK? Day is a yearly reminder that we need to constantly let those around us know we’re here to support them as best we can through the challenges we face in life. The campaign’s call to action of three simple words brings to the front of our minds the impact our words can have on others and actively reminds us to use our words for good.

This message is more important this year than ever, when we’re experiencing difficult and unpredictable times, and we’re physically separated from one another. It’s times like this that we have to rely almost solely on our words to communicate. That makes asking the question ‘Are you okay?’ even more impactful.

We’re all just human. It’s okay to struggle with your mental health – it doesn’t make you any less of a good person. It’s also important to talk to someone you trust and try your best to not compare yourself to others. There is also absolutely no shame in seeking help from a professional. 

When helping out friends or peers who may be struggling, it’s important to be aware of how you react. Try to remain non-judgmental and remember that your coping mechanisms might not be helpful for others. When you notice someone is struggling, you need to approach the topic in a sensitive way – one that lets them know you’re here to listen and offer support when they’re ready.

Feel connected this R U OK? Day

As part of R U OK? Day, we’d love you to connect with your peers in a relaxed online space. DUSA’s ‘Sip’n’Chat’ session is an informal gathering where you can come for a chat or just listen to others – how you participate is up to you!

If you’re struggling at the moment – maybe studying online is getting you down or you’re finding it lonely living on your own – we encourage you to come along to seek help and support. Or you may be inspired to start a conversation and ask someone else: ‘R U OK?’

When: Thursday 10 September, 5–6pm
Find out more and register

Help and support is available

The R U OK? website has lots of resources and tips to empower you to start conversations and to encourage action in polite, positive and productive ways.

Some conversations are too big for friends and family to take on alone. That’s why it’s important to encourage people who are really down to connect with professional support. If you or someone you know needs help, reach out to Deakin’s Counselling and Psychological Support (CAPS) service (it’s free and confidential), Beyond Blue or headspace.

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