Giving a voice to the elephant in the room
Have your heard of Batyr?
It’s actually the name of an elephant who lived in Kazakhstan (1970-1993) and who was taught to speak over 20 phrases in Russian. For example, he could ask for food and water and say his own name. Batyr was an elephant with a voice.
It’s also the name of an Australian organisation with a focus on preventative mental health education. Batyr runs educational programs for uni and highschool students, as well as campaigns to reduce the stigma associated with mental health, so that young people are equipped to recognise and support themselves and their mates.
Batyr does this through story telling, literally giving a voice to the elephant in the room; that is, Mental Health.
If you think back to your high school days, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of educational speaker programs that visited weren't particularly interesting, albeit a nice distraction from actual schoolwork, where you may have been lectured about an array of scary things, like drugs, sex and alcohol.
Batyr isn't like that. I’ve been working with Batyr over the past year, and I can only say wonderful things about the organisation and their schools programs. It is a super engaging and fun program, broken up into manageable sections, with plenty of games and memes, and not long winded speeches.
My role is that of a storyteller. Young people who have experienced mental health issues, like me, tell their stories to groups of high school students, detailing their experiences seeking support. Program faciltators then break the stories down and pick out key learning points.
Each speaker is trained extensively to write and share their story in a super safe way, that doesn't accidentally encourage help-avoidance and promotes healthy discussion around what may be fairly heavy topics.
It's real. It's relatable.
And it's definitely not corny videos with D-grade actors. The speakers are real people, with real stories, so it is so much easier to engage audiences. It's real. It's relatable.
As someone who previously panicked at the thought of public speaking, let alone in front of a group of teenagers, I have felt nothing but a serious respect and warmth from students at schools all over the state.
Batyr opens up the conversation, brings real awareness and reduces the stigma surrounding mental health amongst young people. The program encourages young people to take charge of their own mental health and discusses how to have a chats with friends, who aren't in the best headspace, about support options.
Batyr are always looking out for new young people to join the team. So if you have a story to share and would like training to learn how to tell your story in a safe and empowering way, you can find out about the next Being Herd Story Telling workshop in your local city at http://www.batyr.com.au/being-herd/