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Helping rewrite the future with batyr

When cancer took the life of Tom’s stepmum, Karen, he became increasingly withdrawn and began experiencing mental ill-health at the age of just 16.

Although he didn’t know it at the time, Tom struggled with depression for almost a year before he finally recognised he wasn’t coping.

“Depression interfered with my relationships to family and friends. I found no joy in anything – sport, my mates, uni, nothing. I hated being around people but also hated being by myself. I was isolated in my own head. I always felt so awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin,” Tom said.

After reaching out to his dad, Tom received help from his doctor and started accessing support services.

“My world started to change the minute I told someone. It was a burden that was no longer mine,” Tom explained. “I’m lucky to have a close-knit group of friends and the best family in the world. I know I can be myself with them and tell them whenever I’m feeling down.”

During his journey to recovery, Tom learnt to speak about his experience in public after attending a Being Herd workshop with batyr, a for-purpose organisation that aims to reduce the stigma around mental health and increase help-seeking rates among young Australians.

A $50,000 grant from the Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation helped batyr to deliver 11 school programs and train six Being Herd speakers, including Tom, across the Central West region of NSW.

“It was always daunting getting in front of 200 Year 10s and telling them my hardest moments, but I genuinely think hearing someone else speaking about their journey would have helped me understand that it was ok to feel sad or scared,” Tom said.

“Organisations like batyr are so important because they create a safe and open dialogue about mental ill-health and provide young people with the information on how to access various support services so they can speak out.”

Currently living in Finland to complete a Master’s degree in Education and Globalisation, Tom is making good mental health an ongoing priority and is excited by what his future holds.

“Karen has become more important to me as the years have passed because it’s only when I reflect that I can see the impact she had on my life. Despite her diagnosis and declining health, she found the money to send me to a different school to finish Year 12 and even enrolled me in a university course without me knowing,” Tom said.

“I wasn’t going to finish Year 10. Now all of a sudden I’m in Finland doing a Master’s. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’m hoping this degree will allow me to come home and make positive contributions to regional Australia,” Tom said.

Helping rewrite the future with Batyr.

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