Sebastian Roberston is the founder of Batyr, a social enterprise that focuses on preventative education in the area of young people’s mental health. Batyr provides programs that train young people to speak about their personal experience with mental ill health and start a conversation in their community.
Sharing his own story about struggling with mental ill health, Sebastian emphasised the importance of using personal experience and face-to-face interaction to start the needed conversation about mental health amongst young people.
It is this concept of other young people sharing their stories of mental health struggle and recovery that form the basis for "Batyr". As young people are greatly influenced by their peers, the Batyr organisation locates and trains young people who have personal experience with mental ill-health to share their journey with young audiences. In this way they aim to encourage empathy rather than simply sympathy and ultimately provide support and guidance for auidences to seek help if needed.
In a very promising statistic, Sebastian stated that of the thousands of young people they surveyed who had participated in their programs, 71% said that they would seek help for mental ill health if needed after hearing the speaker talk about their story.
Engaging and sustaining engagement is one of the greater challenges when creating awareness of mental health amongst young people. Batyr tackles this by asking for volunteers from the schools at which they present to promote the program to their peers.
Sebastian highlighted six points for translating increased awareness into behaviour change:
- Be different – there is nothing wrong with being different. Don’t be afraid to fail along the way
- Plan, act, reflect – planning and acting are great, but you need to also reflect on what you have done
- If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room – you learn from surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do
- Attention to detail – big picture vision is great, but you also need to know what is happening on the ground
- Just do it!
- Be creative, be innovative, be different, but you don’t have to be new – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Find what has worked elsewhere, adapt it for your community, replicate, and scale