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Monday 21 December 2020

What challenges did batyr face in 2020?

batyr is driven by young people, for young people. At the heart of what we do is our engaging and educational mental health programs that we share with young people across many parts of Australia. This includes our high school and university programs, as well as workshops that train young people how to share their story safely and effectively.

COVID-19, and the physical distancing that have come with it, hit us right in the heart of what we do. When restrictions ramped up back in March, many of our upcoming program dates were either cancelled or postponed.

Perhaps more importantly, the lockdown itself has had, and continues to have, a significant impact on the mental wellbeing of the young people we deliver our programs to; our staff, including our lived experience speakers; as well as the other communities and spheres batyr works in.

How did you overcome them?

In a matter of weeks, we developed batyr Online, a digital offering of our program content that could be delivered via pre-recorded content and our facilitator streaming live into the program, launching in April. In this way, we can continue to engage with school and university students, teachers and parents throughout the year despite the challenges of COVID-19.

As for the young people we deliver our programs to, it has become more important than ever to share with them stories of hope and resilience through the lens of the challenges of 2020 and the feelings of isolation and anxiety that this past year has brought. No matter what, our aim still is to encourage and teach young people how they can reach out for support, as well as how they can be an anchor person to their mates. In many ways, this message hasn’t changed.

What was the importance of smashing the stigma this year?

After a tough year, the risk of mental ill-health is higher than ever and stigma is still a leading barrier stopping young people from reaching out for support when they need it. Not only do we need to keep talking about mental health but we need to change the way we’re talking about it. There needs to be a focus on hope and resilience so that it encourages our young people to take action early before it reaches a crisis point.

How hard was it to continue reaching young people?

Our programs and workshops are designed to be engaging and peer to peer, so adapting them to an online, digital setting was a challenge. However, the feedback we’ve gotten from young people, teachers and parents for our digital programs has been incredible, with many reporting that they were engaged with the batyr Online content and that they were likely to reach out for support if they needed it. batyr Online has also allowed us to continue to reach rural NSW communities despite COVID-19 restrictions.

The Charitable Foundation was our biggest supporter in the rollout of batyr Online. We’ve still been able to reach young people just in a different way than we’re used to. The good news is that there are positive signs that restrictions are easing in many parts of Australia and we can deliver our peer-to-peer programs in-person soon.

What did you learn from this year?

Young people are more resilient than we give them credit for. They are quick to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and have an optimism to life we can all learn from. In saying that, we, as a community, need to be supporting them more than ever and engaging in more open and positive conversations with them so they feel comfortable to get talking.

There is a lot of commentary about the challenges young people will face around employment, education and mental health challenges in the future and I think we can balance that with a reminder of the amazing opportunities available to us here in Australia.

It’s been an extraordinarily hard year for students. How can parents support their children over the summer holidays?

I think it’s firstly important to acknowledge that it's been hard and accept that the anxiety, distress and/or stress is normal and appropriate. Secondly, explore any specific challenges that you've faced and that they've faced and try to come up with some specific solutions.

Financial stress may mean Christmas will be a little different this year, so how can you keep things fun and festive while saving a buck or two. Everyone is different so the nurturing of childrens’ needs may well be different. Ultimately though, at this time of year, traditions usually play a big part in most people's lives. Given all the uncertainty that 2020 has thrown at us, I think leaning on and celebrating these traditions may well be even more important than ever. If you’re worried about your kids, don’t be afraid to ask directly if they’re doing ok. Learn where to point them if they do open up like headspace, Reachout, Lifeline or your GP.

batyr CEO Nic Brown
batyr CEO, Nic Brown

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