5 Factors to Consider When Talking to Someone About Their Mental Health

Knowing how to approach a conversation like this with a friend or loved one can be difficult and sometimes daunting as you’re wanting to provide love and support but are cautious of saying the wrong thing. From the very start, this is an important fact to acknowledge; you’re wanting to provide love and support. You come from good intentions and want to help see the person you care about feel better.

So here are five starting points to take into account when talking with someone about their mental health.

1. Timing

The time and place that the conversation takes place are incredibly important, as it must be at a point where you can spend the time for however long the conversation needs to go for without having to rush through due to other commitments, and similarly for the person you’re talking to. This also means you both need to be relaxed and calm in order to establish a safe environment that both of you feel comfortable sharing in.

If you both have the time to talk and are free of stresses and tensions, the openness this creates between you forms the kind of safe environment that can prove to be a fundamental support option and significant help towards recovery.

2. Listening

After you’ve been able to open the conversation, don’t talk for a bit, besides to reassure them to keep going if they hesitate on a subject, allow them to freely offload what’s going on in their head. It can be instinctive to try and reassure through phrases like “I get what you mean”, but stay conscious of this as it can come across as invalidating of the person’s own mental health issues if you say you understand what’s going on when even they don’t. Similarly, don’t try to offer solutions at first, just listen. This shows you have no judgement and are purely there to offer a safe space for this person to release what they’ve been feeling. Just provide a set of ears for them to trust and confide in with the swamping thoughts in their head.

3. Responding

This can often be the most difficult part, as it’s hard to know exactly what to say when someone is revealing such personal and emotional details. As briefly mentioned, it is often instinctive to reassure by saying you understand or comprehend what this person is going through. However, this can come across as devaluing their experiences by saying what they’re going through is easy to understand and they are therefore somehow insignificant for not understanding it. So instead of this, bring them back to and reassure them of the more immediate and significant facts; you are there for them. No matter how difficult things may become, you are always there for them, and with them. Grounding the situation in this way can be such a powerful and important message, as even when their mental health fluctuates through its ups and downs they can always come back to the facts; you are there for them.

4. Teamwork

It’s important to convey the feeling of teamwork, the fact that they’re not alone and that you’ll work through this together. Again, you’re not saying you understand it necessarily, but just that you are a reliable and trustworthy go-to person who is always going to be there to help fix things. Framing this as a team effort helps them to know they’re not facing everything alone and can always turn to you for support.

5. Perseverance

Finally, this is not a one-time conversation. In order to support someone experiences mental ill-health you have to prepare to be dismissed and rejected some of the time while trying to get them to talk about what they’re experiencing. They’re not always going to want to share and might share more openly sometimes than others. This is ultimately assisted by picking your battles, knowing when to persist and when to let things slide, so that you don’t become too intense. Similarly, talk about other topics too! Don’t let a mental health issue define the person you’re supporting and don’t let it become the central factor of your relationship. Being someone they can talk to about normal stuff will help build security for them to talk at a deeper level.



beyondblue – Healthy Families

mentalhealth.gov – Talk About Mental Health

Department of Health – Head to Health


Finding the next CEO in 2018

A note from Sebastian Robertson, on behalf of the Board.

In March 2015, Sam Refshauge officially took over as CEO of batyr. Back then we had no doubt that Sam’s passion, his wealth of experience and knowledge, and his positive approach to life would have a significant impact on the growth and success of batyr. And we weren’t wrong!

In the years that followed the batyr team has flourished and thrived under Sam’s leadership, and as a whole the organisation has grown exponentially, increasing it’s impact without compromising on quality or sustainability.

As CEO, Sam has led and supported the team to; go from a reach of 14,000 at the start of 2015, to over 90,000 at the end of 2017 and to build from a team of 17 permanent and casual staff to a team of 54 across 5 states and territories.

This growth alone is incredible and would not have been possible without Sam at the helm. But it is more than this, it is one thing to drive growth, but it is nothing if you don’t have a dedicated and passionate team behind you. Sam’s warmth, his positivity, genuine care for others and commitment to batyr is undeniable, and it is with this infectious enthusiasm he has continued to create a culture where staff and the whole batyr community feel inspired and proud to be a part of it.

As a board we are incredibly grateful for all that has been achieved under Sam’s guidance and leadership. We along with the batyr community, pass on our sincere thanks to Sam and wish him and Maddy all the best on their next adventure.

With Sam we knew who we wanted, we tapped him on the shoulder and he stepped up exactly like we all knew he could and batyr, our community, and so many young people, are better because of his leadership at the helm.

This time around, we’re leaning on you to help us find that perfect fit for the next stage of the batyr journey. So get your thinking caps on and spread the word. The hunt is on.

An incredible opportunity to lead a rapidly growing organisation, doing amazing work in one of the greatest challenges of our era, preventative mental health.

If you think that may be you, or somebody that you know please get in contact with Grace Atkinson from Hattonneale who is helping is to find the next CEO.

Grace Atkinson
[email protected]
02 9258 2600

Sebastian Robertson
Founder & Chairman
On behalf of the batyr Board

Board Announcement…Sam Refshauge to move on as CEO

Read below a note from Sam Refshauge.

Click here to read a note from the batyr Board.

About 5 years ago I was invited by batyr founder Sebastian Robertson to attend the first ever Being Herd ‘speaker training’ program. I said yes. And now looking back on the experience it was without a doubt one of the most defining moments of my life.

Fast forward 5 years, 3 of which I have been lucky enough to lead the batyr team as CEO, and we are now looking forward to the new year and working towards our 2022 strategy.

As we go into the festive season it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the year that’s gone by and start planning for the next. The team at batyr have been working hard over the last few months to develop our new strategic plan, which sets us up to achieve big things over the next 5 years, and we’re all really stoked to be sharing it with you in 2018.

Along with this new strategy come some exciting changes. As of January 2018 the batyr team will consist of 34 permanent staff, 20 casuals, 85 active speakers & 288 volunteers across 5 states and territories!

Let that sink in for a moment… It wasn’t that long ago that batyr was one man, who had the courage to get out there and share his personal experiences with mental ill health, to encourage other young people to reach out for help when they need it. Now our team of dedicated young people are delivering over 400 programs a year, across nearly 200 High Schools & 5 Universities!

The growth of batyr has been exponential but the impact we are having is what really matters. Our post program feedback shows that on average 82% of students are highly engaged in our program and that 75% of students are more likely to seek help after seeing a batyr program, that’s 3 times the national help seeking average. And on top of that, students are telling us the positive impact our programs are having. Here is just one of the comments we received after running a program last week:

“Today I learnt that coming to terms with your emotional and mental health is very good for you, and has a positive impact on your life. The speakers today really proved to me that you can be strong through hard times.” 
Yr 10 student, St Hilda’s Brisbane

It is with this pride in the team, confidence in the strategy and the support of the Board that I have made the decision to transition out of the CEO role and hand the opportunity over to somebody new, to lead batyr into this next chapter.

It’s obviously a very hard decision for me to make, but at the same time feels like it couldn’t come at a better time. I will continue to stay closely connected with batyr (as a Non-Executive Board Director) and the mental health sector (as a Board Director of Mental Health Australia) as I move my life, alongside my beautiful wife Maddy, up to the far North Coast of NSW.

I won’t be leaving until late February and so there is still plenty of time for goodbyes, but it would be remiss of me if I didn’t take this opportunity to thank each and everyone of the people who have supported me through this incredible journey. The batyr Board, the batyr team, our funding & pro-bono partners, the universities, schools & young people who are all passionately committed to seeing an Australia where young people engage in positive conversations about mental health & are empowered to seek help when they need it. Thank you.

I have one request for you all however… We are now on the hunt for the next batyr CEO so if you think that may be you, or somebody that you know please get in contact with Grace Atkinson from Hattonneale who is helping is to find the perfect fit.

Grace Atkinson
[email protected]
02 9258 2600

Sam Refshauge,