Amplifying the Stories of Young People through Digital Innovation
Check out this blog Stephanie Vasiliou, batyr’s Head of Global Impact, penned for eMHIC.
Over the last year, we have learned just how interconnected the world really is. Despite differences across countries, cultures and communities, one of the greatest commonalities that underpins us all, is the power of our stories.
At batyr Australia, we have been supporting young people to learn how to share their mental health stories in a safe and effective way since 2011. With a focus on hope, resiliency and the power of storytelling, we have seen the ripple effect that positive stories can have both face-to-face, and more recently in digital settings.
Evidence tells us one of the greatest ways we can reduce stigma and improve help-seeking is through listening to real stories from people we can relate to. To provide a platform for these stories to be heard, batyr has delivered evidence based, peer-to-peer programs across the education sector reaching over 280,000 young people. These programs include educating students through practical tips on how to take charge of a young person’s wellbeing and hearing from a relatable trained speaker sharing their story of hope.
What can we learn from young people’s stories?
Supported by the National Mental Health Commission of Australia, batyr partnered with researchers at ConNetica to conduct a thematic analysis on young people’s stories to learn about the common associations with experiences of mental ill-health and recovery.
Some of the factors contributing to mental ill-health were:
- High expectations on young people from parents, society or at times themselves
Factors contributing to recovery were:
- High quality therapeutic relationships
- Receiving unconditional love. Having an anchor person who held onto hope when it was difficult to do so themselves was significant.
These findings tell us that there are a number of core elements that are shared across many young people’s experiences. By listening to these experiences, there are invaluable insights we can learn, and an opportunity to take action.
How do we build on this type of information?
Despite so many changes over the last 18 months across how organisations and businesses had to operate, the team at batyr saw an opportunity to make the most of these changes, and find new ways to reach young people through digital solutions. Not only did this include adapting all programs to be delivered digitally, but it involved looking differently at the way we could create an even larger platform to elevate the voices of young people.
Recognising the role stories play in creating change, the Australian Department of Health supported batyr in taking things to the next level. By consulting over 500 young people, 70 experts and 160 academic articles, we learned that:
- 90% of teens use social media, with the average daily time spent being 7h 44min.
- Only 8% of wellbeing apps incorporate peer support or social media.
- 4% of wellbeing apps are designed specifically for young people.
We also heard young people and experts tell us:
- Young people prefer self-reliance and want an opportunity to have ownership over their stories, and choice with what they do with it.
- Decisions made about young people in areas such as health and education, typically don’t involve young people.
- Young people want the opportunity to share their perspectives to inform the systems around them.
To find new ways of multiplying the impact that stories have, batyr developed its first ever app called OurHerd. OurHerd is a mobile app that uses the power of storytelling to help young people navigating mental ill-health build solidarity, find their voices, and share messages of hope and help with the world. It is a place for young people to listen, share and be heard.
The app has three components:
- OurHerd guides users to create safe, relatable and expressive stories about navigating tough times. This is modelled off of batyr’s lived experience storytelling program and involves the guidance of moderators.
- Users have the ability to access real stories of resilience from other relatable young people that resonate.
- The app is designed to capture data and insights from the stories shared, as well as validated impact measures which allow for in-depth analyses of cohort experiences and behaviours. This evidence has the power to influence the systems around young people by informing treatment, funding, research, policy and education.
Taking Action into the Future
Through storytelling, OurHerd will be a tool that empowers young people to find their voices and advocate for change – both for themselves and others. Over the next 6-12 months, we are looking forward to building new partnerships with researchers, non-profits, governments, funders, tech experts, corporations and health & education professionals. These relationships will help us create pathways to share knowledge and insights that can strengthen impact, continuously improve the platform, and ensure a feedback loop is created from these stories, to our communities.
By combining the power of digital solutions with storytelling, we are looking forward to seeing the platform transcend borders, and add value to young people, organisations and decision makers anywhere in the world.