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“Are You Okay?” What if you are not?

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Have you ever wondered why the older generation like to ask “You okay or not?” instead of "How are you"? Is it just a Singlish phrase or is this their subtle way of making you ponder... Among the countless “Okay ar…” that you so promptly respond, how many of them are secretly “Not really"?

Research published by “Time to Change” in their campaign against mental health stigma shows that 8 out of 10 people would tell their family and friends that they are ok when asked “How are you?” even when they are feeling down or going through a mental health crisis.[1]

These respondents expressed the concern that people asking how they are may not be genuinely interested in the answer. Also, the respondents said that they did not want to burden their loved ones. However, almost 40% of respondents said that they would share their problems and feelings if they were sure that their loved ones really wanted to listen to them.

So how would you respond to this question when you are not really ok?

THINK about how you feel about sharing

If you know what is bothering you and you think talking about it to your family and friends can help you go through it, please share.

But if you are still processing it yourself or with professional help, and you are not ready to talk about it, that is okay too.

You need to think about how answering this question will affect you. Sometimes, talking about personal feelings and turbulence can be very painful for a lot of people. Most of the people who are genuinely asking about your well-being are people who care about you, but it’s up to you to decide how much you are comfortable sharing and how you want to set your boundaries. This also brings us to the second point.

UNDERSTAND where people are coming from

Make sure you understand the other person’s intention behind the question.

Is “how are you?” just a passing question? Is the person asking this someone you are close to? Are they genuinely interested in knowing how you are doing and do they actually intend to take the time to be a listening ear?

It can hurt your emotional state even more if you pour your heart out only to realise that the other person cannot give you the time you need. If you are not sure, it is perfectly ok to give a cursory answer. However, if it is your close confidants in life who are genuinely invested in your wellbeing and talking to them makes you feel a bit lighter, please do so.

Remember to be that listening ear to your loved ones if your own state of mind allows it.

If you think someone close to you is going through a difficult emotional time, make sure to let them know that you are there for them too and that it will not be a burden to you!


If you are not sure about whether you are ok and wondering if you need help from a professional, you can take our free assessment to screen for any issues that might be important to explore with a counsellor. Our counsellors at WriteNow are here to help you explore your well-being and mood a bit more.

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