Why it’s time for a new CEO…

Four years ago, almost to the day, I decided to put my voice to what I strongly believe is one of the greatest challenges facing our society: mental ill health. I wanted to share my story of depression with other young people to encourage them to reach out for help when they needed it.

When I soon realised there was no means to share my story, my initial plan became a much much bigger mission. My mission became to create a platform for young people to share with their peers their experience of successfully overcoming or managing mental ill health. I was convinced, and research and reports show, that hearing from a lived experience of mental ill health is one of the greatest ways to reduce stigma and create behavioural change. This is why Batyr was born. Batyr is an organisation that enables young people with a lived experience of mental ill health to go back to schools and universities to encourage, empower and educate other young people to reach out for help when they need it.

My journey with Batyr has been a learning experience to say the least! I’ve learnt the difference between empathy and sympathy, the power of personal stories to create change, and recognised and acknowledged my own story with mental ill health. I’ve realised that achieving something alone is good, but nothing is better than a journey that is shared. From both the countless failures (that you haven’t heard about) and the moments of success (that I pimp out like no tomorrow) I now know that resilience, confidence in your ideas and a willingness to be vulnerable are extraordinarily powerful.

Batyr, to date, has reached over 14,000 young people through our [email protected] and [email protected] programs. After participating in a Batyr program, 80% of young people have an increased ability to seek help and 70% state that they will be more likely seek help if they need to. We have trained 80 young people to share their story and have another 85 young people on a waitlist. These are incredible numbers and results we can be extremely proud of but there is still a big, long journey ahead. Despite what we have achieved at Batyr, suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged 14 – 44 and the current national help-seeking rate for young people sits at 20-25%. These statistics are unacceptable and serve as a reminder of why Batyr needs to reach more young people across Australia in a strategic and sustainable manner.

So… with all that in mind, I have decided that the next great opportunity for Batyr is for me to step back from the role of CEO and allow a new leadership team to drive Batyr forward. The Batyr team has never been stronger and I couldn’t be prouder of them. Their energy, passion, drive and execution of ideas are second to none and so it is with the greatest joy, excitement and anticipation that we turn the next page.

Over the next three months, I will begin the process of handing over the CEO role to a man that I have admired and respected for so long, Sam Refshauge. Sam has been a valuable Board member at Batyr and his passion for Batyr dates back to his participation in the first ever Being Herd program. As General Manager at AIME, an organisation that supports young indigenous Australians through their education, Sam brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from an organisation that has been, and will remain, a constant benchmark for what Batyr sets out to achieve in terms of impact. Batyr is in very safe, competent hands and I look forward to seeing the team continue to push the boundaries and try new things.

Thank you for the support I have had from family, friends, schools, funders and supporters across the country and even overseas. It is incredibly humbling to look back and see the numerous people that have helped Batyr achieve so much in such a short period. I’m not going to pretend that the time, effort and emotional commitment that I’ve given Batyr hasn’t come at some personal cost and sacrifice, but I wouldn’t change a thing. What I have learnt and the positive experiences that I have had as Batyr’s CEO far outweigh the challenges I have faced. To see and hear hope in the incredible stories of those brave young people willing to share their story of mental ill health is an experience that more people should have the privilege of learning from.

I may be leaving my role as CEO but my passion and drive for Batyr will be stronger and louder than ever before. I am looking forward to working with Sam and the team in my position as a Board member. Of all the goals I have reached, one of proudest achievements is that I can step back and know that the Batyr team, under Sam Refshauge’s leadership, will take Batyr to places that I could only dream of.

Here’s to 2015 and to continuing to remove the stigma surrounding mental ill health and increase help seeking rates of young people across Australia.

As for me? My priority lies wholeheartedly in a smooth transition and assisting the team, after that, I’m thinking a real holiday may be in order and then… who knows :).

Seb