Wellbeing Wednesdays: Strength in Vulnerability, by Laura Gilbertson, Nicole Nguyen and Melinda McCabe

This week’s Wellbeing Wednesday post features a moving poem by Community and Wellbeing Committee Member Laura Gilbertson, who lyrically explains how strength grows from where we least expect it. Continue reading, to find a piece by Melinda McCabe and Nicole Nguyen from Monash Thrive. They offer resources available to students who are struggling and share some research on the barriers that young people experience in seeking help. We hope you find this week’s post helpful.

 I wake up and put my brave face on.

 Fill the angst with a broad smile.

 If people don’t know then it won’t be real.

 Just take it all home. You’re safe there. You’re ok there.

 What if I’m not ok?


 I still remember the first time I was vulnerable.

 The first time I took off my veil and revealed my true self.

 Paralysed with fear that the world would forever look at me differently.

 The world would finally see the ugliness underneath.  

 And yet, something strange happened.

 The world kept moving.

 My loved ones still loved me.

 Some, even, related to my struggles.

Something happened that first time I was vulnerable.

I feared weakness but found strength.

The strength to lean on others. The strength to reflect. The strength to grow.

I found strength in vulnerability.

Laura Gilbertson is a committee member for MUMUS Community and Wellbeing.

Admitting to ourselves that we are struggling can be really difficult. It’s hard to talk about, especially if we feel like talking about our issues will make them more real, more challenging, and make us feel like we are lesser. It can also just be difficult to open up to someone and to talk about what we see as our own personal weaknesses. 

Although sometimes scary it is important to talk about our problems, challenges, and struggles with others, whether that is a mental health professional or loved one. Talking through our issues with another can help us understand, reframe, and work to solve the issues we are facing. Getting help also helps us feel less alone and scared, where we often feel like we are the only ones experiencing these issues. 

Both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic we know from peer-reviewed research that many people were struggling, in particular young people who are also trying to navigate the usual challenges associated with becoming an adult and all the worries and responsibilities associated with that. From just our own research here at the Monash THRIVE lab we know that throughout 2020 and 2021 an average of 25% of our students were reporting high levels of stress, and 29% reporting low levels of wellbeing. These numbers are concerning but we want to share them with you to let you know that if you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or sad, you are not alone and there is help available and people that care about you. 

A large-scale systematic review published in 2021 explored the main barriers to seeking help in young people. The most common barrier, affecting 96% of the studies explored, was a lacking understanding of mental health and negative perceptions of help seeking, followed by social stigma and embarrassment, feelings of trust (or more accurately ‘mistrust’) of mental health professionals and lastly, the fourth systematic and structural barriers such as access to these services and potential cost concerns. 

Seeking help early is critical to get the support you need as soon as possible and to hopefully prevent things from getting more serious and impacting other areas of your life such as your studies, career, and relationships. 

If you take away anything from this article, please let it be this:

If you are ever in need of help, reach out. Reach out to a friend, family member, your partner (if you have one), or a mental health professional. Just reach out as soon as possible.

You are important.
You deserve to ask for help.
You deserve help.
Your loved ones and mental health services are there for you, for you to use. If you don’t know where to begin, we have resources on how to go about reaching out for help on our website. It can be hard to bring ourselves to seek help, but it gets easier the more you do it.

Melinda McCabe and Nicole Nguyen are members of Monash Thrive, an organisation collaborating between students and researchers, with a focus on student mental health and wellbeing.

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