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Poh Gan

With this year’s theme for RU OK Day being ‘There’s more to say after RU OK?,’ educational and developmental psychologist Poh Gan is mentoring others on how to continue the conversation.

“I’m doing a presentation for teenagers who I mentor at a local Buddhist temple to help raise awareness and provide simple tips to keep the conversation going.

“It can be hard to know what to say if you notice that your friends are not OK,” said Poh, who is also posting Facebook tips on what to say, with some Chinese translation.

“2020 has been a challenging year for all of us emotionally. We are all impacted by COVID-19 to some extent.”

Originally from Malaysia, Poh usually visits family and friends every year to help maintain emotional bonds and a connection with her roots.

“This year, together with many of my fellow migrants, we are unable to travel. I feel the disappointment, loss and isolation like everyone else. While I am a psychologist by profession, I also struggle with the stress of adjusting to the ‘new normal’ and dealing with feelings of grief and loss.”

While she is grateful that she has friends who check in with her and make space for her to talk about her feelings, Poh feels that this year, every one of us needs more emotional support from each other.

“Due to possible mental health stigma and more social isolation and disadvantage, individuals from CaLD backgrounds are less likely to reach out to mental health professionals.

“RU OK initiatives and campaigns are important to help all of us learn how to read the signs when someone is not OK, to trust our gut and to reach out to start a conversation.

“We don’t have to be professional therapists to ask “RU OK?” and to learn to listen to our friends.

“When someone feels heard and validated, they may be able to take action to look after themselves or to seek help. This helps to reduce loneliness or prevent suicide in CaLD communities.”

Poh believes that having these conversations helps our friends to feel that someone cares, and that no feelings are too big that you can’t share.

“It is the connection that we have for each other that keep us going. We all struggle with life’s ups and downs sometimes. It’s OK to not to be OK. The good thing is, we can learn to show up for our friends and community to get through this challenging year. Together we are stronger.”

Page reviewed 21 August 2020