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You’re not always fine and that’s okay 

Being honest with your feelings will make you stronger, despite the struggle...

Laughing doesn’t always indicate that you’re happy and joyful.  

Similarly, ‘I am fine’ often has different definitions. 

‘I am fine’ might mean you’re hurt, you’re anxious, you’re feeling sad but you’re simply trying to ignore or suppress it. 

Allow yourself to recognize and accept the variety of definitions hidden behind ‘I am fine’. Stop running from these emotions that we often label as “negative.” 

You’re always trying to keep a straight face. You want to be okay because someone at some point of life has told you that not being fine makes you weak. 

A strong person is supposed to be tough, not affected by their surroundings, always have a smile, control over their mind and emotions, and pretend to be happy.  

But you’re strong the way you are, despite the times you cry. 

Allow yourself, permit yourself to feel them. Refocus on yourself, stop controlling, hiding, suppressing, ignoring or even being afraid of them. Liberate yourself from the pressure of constantly feeling positive and happy. This constant pressure just creates more misery. It’s important to understand this, the more you try to suppress them, the more intensely you feel them. So let them flow in their pure way, it may be hard. But isn’t this hard too? 

You cannot change how you feel, accept this. 

You cannot control what you feel, accept this too. 

Normalize yourself with these emotions. 

Pick yourself up and say to yourself, “I’ll feel what I want to feel” Get over this fear and rip apart the emotions attached to the label that says, “Be strong and tough”. No one is judging you as hard as you are judging yourself. 

It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay if you want to cry. It’s okay not to smile all day. It’s okay if your soul is weary. It’s okay to feel low, to get hurt, to get upset. It’s okay if you don’t have the capacity to run through the entire day. 

Forgive yourself for the fake smile you couldn’t put over your face when you were hurt. 

Notice this, be empathetic to yourself before anyone else, listen to yourself, and listen to what you are trying to hide. And most essentially feel it. 

This “c’mon, cheer up! Be happy!” doesn’t always work. Sometimes all you need to say to yourself is “I am not fine today and it’s okay” and give yourself space and the freedom to express yourself without any pressure of being happy. 

This beautiful little heart of yours is not meant to be bottled up but to be poured.  

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Strength in solitude

A personal reflective essay on life as a first-year student at Western Sydney University, written in poetic-prose style describing the highs and lows ...

Sometimes, the air in Sydney feels soft, sweet, and safe. I see this land as more of an embodiment of home to me than ‘home’ ever was – how else can I express that a daughter forced to leave a motherland 9143 km behind might be seeking safety, might be brave enough to break cursed cycles that are centuries too old? 

Image of Sydney harbor taken from an airplane as it lands.
(Credit: Shabnam Siddique)

On autumn afternoons, strolling through the crimson and gold decked grounds of Western Sydney University, I wonder if I could ever shed the chaos in me the way a tree so effortlessly sheds its leaves. But to hope it would be that easy is almost toying with what took me miles to get here in the first place.   

You see, I wish I could tell you that I chose to move far and away because I could —but I chose it because I couldn’t choose not to. To live alone and apart is an art, but to live lonely and lost is a lingering ache – and romanticism can hardly avail for it.

image of Western Sydney University, taken at Parramatta South Campus during Autumn.
(Credit: Shabnam Siddique)

May arrived, and with it, I found something I never thought I could: a safe space to finally breathe. 

From then on, into June, commuting on trains, watching Sydney’s suburbs and fields and woodlands and streams glide past, I think of 18-year-old me: dreaming and falling in love with this very city. I imagine cupping her chin as she stares at me in utter denial, whispering in her ear, ‘We made it, my sweetest child, we made it right here’— 

Healing involves creating and evolving into a version of yourself who will unconditionally cater to your needs and be the safe space for your wounded parts. Let me introduce you to my wounded parts: my inner child and my inner teen.  

Then there is me: the adult version (trying to be) their safe caretaker –together, we are learning and attempting to heal, thrive and stay alive. 

Image of a train in Sydney, taken at Parramatta Station. The sky is colored pale pink at sunset.
(Credit: Shabnam Siddique)

Training to be a therapist, I am learning to extend grace to others and hold back the pain that, sometimes lingers on the warped lens of my wounded worldview. I can guarantee that it eventually pays off: realizing that I can be safe for my friends is something. But to be told I make someone I hardly know feel safe is glory of a glowing kind. Because becoming a therapist is undeniably the same as learning the skill of mothering those who have never been mothered before.   

Road-tripping into the Blue Mountains, campfire crackling in the early hours of the wintry night, I thought of how healing, like all transformative things, has its phases.  Thus, speaking of ache with no nod to joy would be quite cruel. For joy did meet me, speckled across this year: In its soft and endearing ways, joy made healing feel real as it led me to people, new and old. 

Image of Western Sydney University, taken in Parramatta South Campus with sunlight speckling the scene.
(Credit: Shabnam Siddique)

If I were to take away just one lesson from my 2023, I would tell you that I do not want to ever say the words ‘take me back to…’ again. From now on, it is ‘take me forward into…’ — Isn’t that a mark of growth itself? 

Living apart at last from everything in my past feels eerily familiar: as though whatever I’d envisioned the distance to be is now in focus as the fog thins. Which is to say, this is me healing.  

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Build communication skills with the help of the WSU Library

Read how adults can better build communication skills with the help of books in the WSU library! ...
A large wooden bookshelf filled with colourfully bound books.

Self-education has been a trend in books, podcasts, reality television, and social media for a long time, and is only growing – for university students, navigating the transition between high school and adult life can be overwhelming, to say the least, with no clear guidebook.

Building communication skills can be the hardest part of entering adult life, and it can affect both relationships and a student’s emotional well-being – both personally and professionally.

Whether you’re 18, 28 or 58, these four books can help fill the gaps in self-education – and they’re all free to access online at the Western Sydney University library:

The Barefoot Investor

Scott Pape, author of The Barefoot Investor, makes financial literacy understandable at any level, for any adult, whether they are studying or working, or both. Using farming as a metaphor, the book details how you plant, grow, and harvest your financial security for the future.

With the current cost-of-living crisis, students would be asking themselves these questions – ones that the book addresses: How do we keep our savings instead of spending on pretty trinkets? How do we prepare and save for disaster while still socialising and having fun?

My Blob Feelings Workbook: A Toolkit for Exploring Emotions!

    This interactive workbook allows the reader to better express and understand emotions: becoming more self-aware of your feelings and tracking them over time can help identify triggers that lead to low moods, as well as help find the root causes of anxiety or recognise periods of depression.

    More elaborate than a typical mood tracker, the ‘blobs’ that personify emotions throughout the book include pensiveness, remorse, vigilance, trust, submission, grief, and amazement.

    The Courage to be Disliked

    The Japanese phenomenon that shows you how to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness. Where the previously mentioned Blob Feelings Workbook allows you to explore your own emotions over time, The Courage to be Disliked explores people’s relationships with each other – such as friends, family, and partners.

    It both relates to and helps adults, particularly uni students, as the book discusses being from a close-knit environment, such as a hometown or small family, and moving to a new and different place filled with people of all interests – like meeting classmates and new faces on campus.

    How to Talk to Absolutely Anyone: Confident Communication for Work, Life and Relationships

    Communication is vital to any degree – whether it’s screen and media, journalism, public relations, or any job, for that matter. Whether writing reports, giving presentations, mentoring others, or talking to classmates, or co-workers, How to Talk not only helps students build strong communication skills but also delves into such areas as social anxiety.

    No matter what level of confidence you have – whether you’re a natural extravert or sitting with your anxiety in the bathroom at a party, you are taken through all possible aspects of interaction, so both young adults studying at university, or older, can read the book, or skip to the sections that they’re unsure about – the parts that they feel will help them as they move through life.

    So, whether you’re a student at uni or working – or both – make sure to take advantage of all the resources at the library, particularly those sources, both in print and online, that Western Sydney University has to offer – because an adult never stops learning new skills.

    A distant image of a WSU library with a red overlay. There is a white line art of a student whose head is filled in with books and shelves.
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    Creating a culture of safety around sexual harm at Western

    What do you know about safety on campus? Learn how to access services when you need them most, you could be 1 in 6 uni students to experience sexual h...

    TW: This report contains content about sexual harm that some readers may find distressing. You can find support services and resources below.

    When a US-based documentary called The Hunting Ground was released in 2015, highlighting issues around sexual assault on campus – this became a catalyst for conversation in an Australian context that persists to this day.

    Unveiling themes of misogyny, victim blaming, and institutional failure, the documentary paints a vivid picture of the deep-rooted challenges in responding to sexual violence – and Australia’s tertiary system is no stranger to this.

    A year after the documentary was released, Universities Australia launched the Respect Now Always campaign, aimed at reshaping how universities respond to reports of sexual harm.

    Fast forward to 2021, Australian Universities conducted a National Student Safety Survey (NSSS), the first data collection of its kind to highlight underreported incidents of sexual harm.

    Out of the 43,819 students surveyed, 1 in 20 students reported experiencing sexual assault while at university, and 1 in 6 faced sexual harassment. Despite these numbers, the majority chose not to report  – and underreporting is common in this space.

    Image obtained from NSSS: available at https://www.nsss.edu.au/

    How is Western responding?

    In the face of these sobering findings, Western Sydney University (WSU) refuses to be complacent. Respect Now Always isn’t just a campaign – but a commitment to the safety and security of our student community.

    Here, there is No Wrong Door for reporting sexual harm. WSU encourages individuals who have experienced sexual harm or those aware of someone who has, to come forward and make a report. And remember: there is no time limit for reporting, and every door is the right one when it comes to addressing sexual harm. Students can report to any University staff member, The Office of People if the report includes a staff member, or anyone you trust and feel safe with.

    How can I report sexual offences on campus?

    WSU encourages students to report sexual harm via the Sexual Offence Reporting Portal (SORP), a confidential online reporting process for all students and staff, that can be accessed from the WSU website. The University aims to respond to reports as soon as possible (within 1 business day). Reports can also be made to the Complaints Resolution Unit directly. The portal is not for emergency use, and students should contact NSW Police or seek assistance from their nearest hospital or GP in an urgent situation.

    The university offers a Student Case Coordinator (SCC) service, which provides individualised assistance to students who have experienced sexual harm. SCCs provide information about the sexual offence reporting process and available options. SCCs are able to assist students with study adjustments and links to any further support required. To organise a time to speak with an SCC, email: scc@westernsydney.edu.au

    If you feel you would like to speak to someone for support or information in relation to these issues, the following support services are available:

    • 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT.org.au)
    • Lifeline (lifeline.org.au or 13 11 14)
    • QLife (1800 184 527 or qlife.org.au)
    • Relationships Australia (1300 364 277 or relationships.org.au)
    • Mensline Australia (1300 789 978 or mensline.org.au)
    • WSU Office of People, which consists of staff members from both the Human Resources Team and Equity, Safety and Wellbeing team (02 9678 7575 or humanresources@westernsydney.edu.au).
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    The cost-of-living crisis and how it’s affecting uni students beyond finances

    Natasa covers uni students’ mental health struggles amidst the cost-of-living crisis in 2023....

    Trigger warning: This article contains mention of suicide statistics.

    Many uni students who have weathered and beaten the two-and-a-half-year COVID blues now face an equally hard struggle in 2023 that leaves dwindling sums in their bank accounts. This new challenge they face is none other than the cost-of-living crisis, which is also impacting their mental health. This year, the escalating costs of rent, food, fuel, and education have become pressing health issues that university students face daily.

    (Credit: Pexels)

    Choice between work and education:

    There has been an increase in uni students who are now pressured to juggle the demand of their studies with paid work to continue supporting themselves – whether that be picking up casual gig, or taking up demanding, often unmanageable hours.

    Jacob Nye, a 31-year-old former university student, now works full-time in a management position and yet, is struggling to afford essential commodities such as cereal, meat and electricity due to his rent prices rising from $350 to $600 this year.

    “The only way I could study is if it was self-paced with zero class time and extremely flexible practically. Otherwise, if it cost me any time at work, it would become impossible to study with the cost of living,” says Jacob.

    The preferred schedule described by Jacob could work with Zoom classes – but what happens when students are required to attend classes in person?

    A 2023 survey by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in the UK reveals that more than half of the 10,000 uni students surveyed are simultaneously grappling with the demands of work and education – from attending lectures and tutorials and hastily completing assignments during the semester.  

    (Credit: Pexels | Ketut Subiyanto).

    Jacob states that he feels more “anxious than depressed” about his current economic situation and the knowledge that another rent increase is sure to come soon, which could jeopardise his prospects of pursuing further education.

    “[The] biggest hurdle is cost-of-living; for me, uni would only work if it didn’t impact my job. But I’d be too tired to study after working full time,” he adds.

    In an SBS News interview, one international student believes overwork is one of the reasons students have resorted to the ‘emergency measure’ of using Chat GBT to complete assessments.

    (Credit: Ron Lach | Pexels).

    The strain on mental health and the rise in suicides:

    In 2023, 46% of Australians experience feeling troubled and worried due to economic pressures.

    Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) have released results that the cost of living has, for the fourth quarter in a row this year, been one of the two leading causes for adults over 18 feeling “distressed”, leading to a heightened suicide risk. The study reveals a 19% increase in the likelihood of experiencing harmful thoughts for those anxious and stressed “beyond normal levels”.

    SPA’s Chief Executive, Matthew McLean, acknowledges that social isolation and loneliness drive this distress. According to ABC News, some often don’t have the time and money to socialise amidst the rising cost-of-living. In this climate, fears about the growing cost of a beer ($8+) or an adult movie ticket ($26.50+) can prompt people to skip a friend’s gathering or miss out on socialising altogether.

    Additionally, findings from SPA and a Longitudinal study show that human interaction is not as frequent as in previous years, despite the accessibility of social media. In this digital climate, it can easily seem quicker, cheaper, and easier to communicate with a friend via text or DM than to physically show up to lunch amidst the pressures of budgeting, work, and study.

    With no relief in sight for this cost-of-living crisis, young adults like Jacob will continue to adhere to their preferred schedule – a choice based on necessity. They may do so while hoping the price they pay,+ does not become too high a cost in the future.

    If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, remember you are not alone, and there is support:

    Lifeline: 13 11 14

    1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732

    Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

    Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467

    Mission Australia: 1800 88 88 68

    Headspace:1800 650 890

    Link2home: 1800 152 152

    Western Sydney Students Financial Support: 1800 668 370

    WSU Renter Support: 1800 668 370

    WSU Emergency Accommodation: 1800 668 370   

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    How COVID-19 has caused a ‘shadow pandemic’ among Western Sydney University students

    How COVID-19 has caused a ‘shadow pandemic’ among Western Sydney University students ...

    Lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted the lives of Australian youth, affecting mental health and resulting in what is being referred to as a ‘shadow pandemic’.  An article by PWC, states, “young Australians aged 16-34 are at the greatest risk of loneliness, with 40% reportedly feeling isolated and alone during the pandemic”.

    In this article, we look at the mental health implications of students studying at Western Sydney University(WSU), across four different facets of their lives – screen time, face to face interaction, sleep patterns and financial security were investigated.

    The data was collected from 59 Western Sydney University design students, over one week in 2021, with activities recorded every half hour. The data was then compared to 59 Western Sydney University design students from 2019, to determine how behaviour has changed during the lockdowns.

    1. Screen time

    With the harsh lockdowns in NSW, students have been home from mid-June until October 2021. Social activities such as attending university, socialising with friends, shopping and even exercising were confined to screens.

    In an article by McCrindle Research, it was found that “more than four in five students (82%) agreeing that they struggle with spending too much time on screens and technology, and they are seeing the negative impacts in their daily life”.

    This is reflected in the screen time usage by students in WSU, who spend on average 9.9 hours a day across 6 devices, compared to 7.3 hours a day in 2019. According to the University of Queensland recent study, the negative impacts of increased screen time include “depression, obesity, poor quality of life, unhealthy diet and decreased physical and cognitive abilities”.

    Average Hours a Day on Screen Devices

    1. Face to Face Interaction

    Face to face interaction has reduced drastically between 62 minutes a day in 2019 to 11 minutes a day in 2020.

    Average Minutes a Day Face to Face Interaction

     

    This lack of face-to-face interaction can have several implications. According to the PTSD Journal, these include depression (feelings of severe despondency), poor self-esteem (being critical about yourself or focussing on the negatives) , loss of reality (unsure what is real or what you might have imagined to be real), reduced resilience (more likely to feel like the victim or be overwhelmed) and decreased empathy (reduced ability to see something from someone else’s perspective). If anyone feels like they are experiencing these symptoms please ask for help. The University has a number of internal wellbeing resources available at the university, which includes counselling support, as well as a number of resources available through external providers which covers areas from free legal advice to financial support.

    1. Sleep Patterns

    As evident in the below graph, you can see a number of naps are conducted during the course of the day, this is evidenced by the yellow lines. This indicates that sleep has become more irregular. According to Mind Org, those with poor mental health are likely to sleep more often. Therefore, the increased amount of naps could potentially indicate deteriorating mental health of design students.

    Sleep Patterns Across 7 Days

    According to a study by the Sydney Morning Herald, “[of over] 2000 responses, 46 per cent are sleeping poorly during the pandemic, compared with 25 per cent before it, and 41 per cent are waking during the night three or more times a week, a symptom of insomnia…” the causes of sleep disruption included general pandemic stress, anxiety, job changes and financial distress.”

    So what is the effect of a regular sleep pattern? According, to  Very well Mind Journal, this lack of sleep can cause stress, depression and anxiety.

    1. Financial Security

    Students attending Western Sydney University tend to reside in the Greater Western Sydney region, which typically, has less affluence than the CBD, North Shore or Eastern suburbs in Sydney. This is evidenced by a study conducted by the NSW Council of Social Service, that states higher rates of economic disadvantage are evident in the Western Sydney region. This may be one of the reasons that 46% of the cohort were in paid employment during 2021. Therefore, the drop in 8% in paid employment and 4 hours a week worked between 2019 and 2021, may have led to further mental anguish for students already dealing with the financial pressure of attending university.