Five minutes with Michelle Duong, Growth Marketing Manager, batyr

Published 16 December 2022

batyr is a for-purpose preventative mental health organisation, created and driven by young people, for young people. It was founded by Sebastian Robertson in 2011 after he experienced the frustration and isolation of living silently with mental ill-health whilst at university,

batyr aims to smash the stigma surrounding mental ill-health and empower young people to reach out for support.

We spoke with Michelle Duong, Growth Marketing Manager, to learn more about the work they do.


Can you tell us about batyr and the work you do? 

batyr is a preventative mental health charity, created and driven by young people, for young people.

We have a vision of a world where all young people lead mentally healthy and fulfilling lives.

We empower young people with the confidence and skills to get through tough times and look out for each other. We work to create stigma-free communities that champion young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

We do this by engaging with young people to share their lived experience stories and through peer-to-peer education that can prevent young people from reaching a crisis point.

batyr is named after the talking elephant from Kazakhstan, who could speak 20 human-sounding phrases in Russian. batyr, the elephant, had a voice and we are inspired by batyr to give a voice to the elephant in the room; that being mental health.

When did you join the organisation and what does your role entail?

I joined the batyr team in early 2021 as the Growth Marketing Manager for our new mental health storytelling app, OurHerd. The app provides a safe space for young people to find their voice, share hope and create positive change via lived experience stories. 

I’m responsible for finding and creating opportunities to grow the OurHerd community by deeply understanding our user base and collaborating with like-minded people, organisations and institutions that specialise in youth engagement. 

Through this collaborative approach and with the power of valuable lived experience data and insights, we can positively influence the systems and social determinants that shape young people’s mental health. 

Can you tell us about your Being Herd storytelling workshops – and how they engage, educate and empower young people? 

Being Herd is a free two-day workshop that empowers young people to give a voice to their story of mental-ill health. We support them in creating engaging, positive spaces that educate and normalise conversations about mental health and help to build stigma-free communities.

Many of our workshop participants, empowered by their new-found confidence, go on to spread their message of hope and resilience in their own communities. Some even join batyr’s speaker network to deliver their powerful lived experience stories through our batyr@school and batyr@uni programs, and play an active advocacy role to enact change for youth mental health.

Your website contains an impressive resource section. Can you tell us about your Resource Hub and how these resources can upskill people to have safe and positive conversations about mental health?

Thank you for the compliment! Our Resource Hub is one of the most recent additions to batyr’s suite of offerings. It came about as we recognised a need for both young people and the people who support them to have more practical strategies and tools to manage mental health experiences in their day-to-day lives.

It complements the programs we deliver by offering a continuous contact point with batyr’s wealth of expertise in youth mental health. We’ve had some great feedback already, with young people finding value in the study templates and wellbeing plans, and student wellbeing managers sharing resources with their students to engage with over the school holidays.

A lot of work has gone into this to make sure that the impact we deliver is real and lasting.

Splash the Stigma is coming up in February. Can you tell us about this fundraising event and how people can make a splash for youth mental health? 

Splash the Stigma is one of our biggest annual fundraising events, and it’s coming up in February 2023. We’re partnering with our friends at Budgy Smuggler to bring the community together to promote the positive benefits of exercise on our wellbeing and make a splash for youth mental health. 

Last year, we raised over $41,000 which enabled 1,662 more young people to access a batyr program, empowering them to take charge of their mental health and to start a life-changing conversation with others.

You can take part anywhere and anytime throughout the month of February. Round up a team and sign up here.

From your experience, what types of discrimination or unfair treatment do young people with mental ill-health face?

Self-stigma is a big barrier for young people accessing help when they come up against tough times. This self-endorsement of negative public stereotypes and discrimination towards themselves can lead to young people feeling inferior and is associated with numerous negative mental health outcomes like depression, social avoidance, low self-esteem, psychological distress and decreased help-seeking.

That said, we also recognise that discrimination exists within the mental health landscape itself. Whilst individuals from all parts of society suffer and everyone is deserving of care and support, some groups of people bear the burden of mental illness more than others. Research from the University of Southern Queensland has found that youth from families with lower incomes have a higher risk of suffering from mental health problems – including bullying, victimisation, mental disorders, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts – compared to those from better-off families. 

The findings highlight the importance of creating tailored approaches and support systems for young people facing mental health challenges. At batyr, we are deliberate in the design of our workshops and programs to engage meaningfully with different youth groups, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse, LGBTQIA+, all-male and regional communities.

How can members of the community support the work of batyr?

You can sign up to our newsletter to stay up-to-date and get involved with our latest events and campaigns, or donate to help us reach more young Australians through our programs. 


Last updated:

16 Dec 2022

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