Content warning: this article contains references to mental health and suicide.
If you or anyone you know needs support, please refer to the list of national support services included at the end of this article.
As a young child, Sarah experienced housing insecurity first-hand. She moved constantly with her loving family from a baby to young adulthood, moving into 15 different homes growing up in Adelaide.
Every time she moved, Sarah would sit and draw the floorplan of her new home so she knew where to go and could start to feel at ease in her new surrounds. This started her path towards architecture, having experienced first-hand the criticality of a secure home, our sense of ‘place’ and the importance of our mental health as part of our life experiences.
With R U OK? Day now over for 2023, Sarah’s story serves as an inspiration for us all moving forward each and every day. Sarah’s story is an example of how our life experiences, no matter how challenging, can set us on an unimaginable path towards a greater purpose far bigger than ourselves.
As Sarah tells, it all started with the ability to listen to others, as well as be heard.
“My Mum is amazingly empathetic and is such a great listener – no matter how hard things ever got, she was always present and there for me and my sister.
“My Mum is a Social Worker and so it is just ingrained – her job is to support and listen to others, but it just comes so naturally to her.
“Through her, I learnt the importance of truly listening to someone, knowing how it felt to be listened to,” she said.
“Mum would help people find a home as part of her job, while having to tackle her own housing insecurities at the same time.
“My father experienced challenges with housing security, as well as battled with his own mental health.
“My father took his own life as a result of these challenges, and so through him, I saw first-hand how important it is to be listened to and given the right environment to heal,” she said.
Sarah said that her life experiences set her on a path towards architecture, wanting to create something beautiful and purposeful out of the challenges of her past.
“I slowly gained housing security as I got older . . . initially when I was 14, when I got my own room for the first time when we moved in with my Stepfather. It evolved from there as I got older, finished my studies and found my own independence.
“My Mum and Grandfather always prioritised our education – because of the sacrifices I knew they were making, it made me so driven to use the opportunity to not just better my own circumstances, but to help others each and every day,” she said.
“I worked hard to get a scholarship and then ended up completing my Masters in 2021. Soon after, I joined the Hames Sharley team here in Adelaide,” she said.
Sarah said that she now sees listening as critical to the human condition – both in her personal life, but also as part of the design process.
“I deeply care about people and just want to make a difference – I think it all starts with how we communicate. To truly listen to someone and absorb what they’re saying, not just listen to respond.”
“I think being honest with yourself and others, as well as being self-aware and not being afraid to talk about your feelings, is just so important.
“Through my housing experiences, losing my dad quite young, and my own mental health journey, I’ve learnt for myself that it’s so important to be honest with yourself and others, as well as be self-aware and not be afraid to talk about your feelings.
“I hope that beyond R U OK? Day – each and every day – we keep truly listening to the people around us, while also seeking out others if we need to be heard,” Sarah said.
If you or anyone you know needs support, please contact:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander crisis support line 13YARN on 13 92 76
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978