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30. Is Our ‘She’ll Be Right’ Attitude Dangerous For Our Mental Health?

Updated: Jul 10, 2022

With a Covid-19 resurgence among us, New Zealand’s mental health will once again become especially important. During the first lockdown wave, mental health hotlines such as ‘Lifeline’ saw spikes like 25% increases in their call and text numbers. New Zealanders are infamous for their ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. However, could we be too calm? Could this cultural ‘she’ll be right’ tactic actually be harmful to our mental health?

Educational psychologist, Valerie Sotardi, who lectures at UC shares her opinion on whether the ‘she’ll be right’ response is effective: “As a psychologist, part of me feels as though when we have this kind of suppression of emotion it becomes potentially problematic. Because saying ‘she’ll be right’ and ‘keep calm carry on’ is certainly a cultural means of communication. But to the other degree, I would say it is fair to also consider that sometimes that kind of persistence is a useful thing. And I think part of that statement is encouraging on the surface, but obviously isn’t necessarily interpreted that way.”

The interpretation that Sotardi alludes to are New Zealand’s mental health statistics. New Zealand’s suicide statistics follow the same trend as other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, yet youth suicides in NZ differ and are extraordinarily high. New Zealand’s standard of living is relatively high but weaved amongst a self-reliant culture can ultimately discourage people from seeking support.

This 'she'll be right' ideology is even more embedded within masculinity. I was talking with my friend yesterday who is practicing to become a doctor and regularly has patients come in to her lectures. These patients are brought in to show students how a consultation should proceed. Often, it is found that wives and partners have to force their partner to even see a doctor. Why is that so? If men cannot feel comfortable to consult a professional about their physical pain, how on earth is consulting a professional about mental distress going to be normalised? No one deems taking care of yourself as a weakness nor cowardly, so why do men especially have such a difficulty in taking advantage of resources to promote mental health?

“When it comes to help seeking as a form of coping strategies - there are a lot of things that need to be considered. Like, not only do I need help, but what do I need help with? Who do I go to and will that person actually help me or will I be confronted with that ‘she’ll be right’ kind of thing,” Sotardi explains. Seeking help can be daunting, especially in a society when saying ‘she’ll be right’ is the cultural frame of mind. From now on, attempt to bring awareness to when you and other around you do this. Rather than saying ‘she’ll be right’, ask yourself: “is she alright?” Remember that it is never a weakness to not be okay and New Zealand culture must cultivate that thinking to better societal well being. Let's talk about this collectively to move our mental health difficulty in a positive direction.

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This blog will encompass the life of a 19-year-old kiwi chica. Composed of stories, advice, life lessons, worldly observations, videos and whatever else Ella's life brings to surface.For all of this and more, read my new found blog 'Born In 2000': established on the 28th of October, 2019. Where Ella Gibson explores her life that exceeds all limitations. Publications should be expected twice a week. Take this present moment now and rock it!

Our 'she'll be right' culture is one that is incredibly embellished in whatever we do.

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