Josh shares his mental health journey for the batyr Christmas Appeal
batyr has today launched its Christmas Appeal so we can continue to deliver our educational mental health programs to young people across Australia.
Young people like Josh (19, Bondi), who first saw a batyr program when he was in year 10, a time when he first began to struggle with his mental health.
For the first 16 years of his life, Josh had heard over and over again that mental ill-health is something that can affect anyone, at any time but, even during the batyr program, he thought, “it would never be me.” He didn’t have a care in the world, living near a beach with his family and enjoying his love for music.
However, at 17 and going into year 12 as school captain, things started to change for Josh.
“All of a sudden, my thoughts and personality started to change,” Josh said. “My mood rapidly went from depressive states to manic. In my lows I was indecisive, I slept longer than usual and couldn’t get up. I was never focussed during class, sometimes even dozing off. I started falling behind in school and, for the first time, I had started having panic attacks. I would feel a hot flush flow through my body, I would start sweating and breathing fast and, all of a sudden, everything felt ten times worse than it was in reality.”
Like many young people, Josh had never had any experience of mental ill-health and he was completely blind-sided. Josh’s mental health continued to decline, and at his lowest, he felt as if he no longer had control over his own mind and was having thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
“My parents were really upset seeing me like this and it took a toll on them too. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but after trying countless medications with no luck, we saw a second psychiatrist. She explained I would need different treatment as it had stemmed from an auto-immune weakness and suggested I was admitted to hospital so that we could work out an effective treatment plan. Upon arrival to U-Space, a dedicated mental health ward for adolescents, I was scared but after a few days I realised how amazing this place was. The nurses and social workers there were so incredible and supportive. It was also really important for me to see that there were other people out there going through struggles with mental ill-health and that I wasn’t alone.”
Josh missed two full terms of school while he was in hospital, but he knew it was the best thing for him. After leaving the ward, he started slowly re-joining bits and pieces of his everyday life and many of his closest friends were super supportive along the way.
“I was so lucky I saw the batyr program before my challenges occurred as it really impacted the way I talked to my friends about mental health and allowed me to have some amazing conversations. It also helped me clear the air, both for me and the rest of the school about why the school captain was all of a sudden absent. I got up and gave a short speech, opening up about what had happened and why I was missing the past two terms. The speech had such a positive response and there were people telling me how much it helped them”
Although Josh’s mental ill-health impacted his life very negatively at the time, he’s learned to draw positives from the experience and batyr has been crucial in this process.
“Coming out of the other side of an experience like this, I’ve realised that I have a much greater appreciation for the small things that I didn’t really notice before. I appreciate every time I go for a walk because I was scared to even leave the house at one point. Finishing school with my cohort was something I had always thought to be a given but just having had that experience was so meaningful for me when I thought I would never finish this year.“
“Not only has batyr been an important part of my recovery, it has given me an avenue to take charge of my mental health. From doing that talk in school and realising the impact I decided to actually become a speaker for batyr. It’s so fulfilling as I’m using my own lived experience to help others who are going through their own struggles. It drives me to not let my mental health affect me negatively and I think if I have helped even just one person, then this all is worth it.”
For Josh, another important lesson from batyr has been knowing the services out there and how to get help.
“It’s also really important people know how to support friends, and what to do if someone they know is struggling. Learning how to approach the situation is so vital. And this is what batyr does.”
In his time of need, Josh was able to draw on what he learned from batyr, and this is why he understands just how crucial our work in prevention and early intervention is.
“I think if the kids going through school now can all leave having a really good understanding of mental health and how to reach out for support, then the adult population in a few years time will be so much better off. The way I see it is that every donation that goes to batyr helps create more understanding and empathetic future generations, and I see that as a huge positive.”
If you’re in need of mental health support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.