Talking elephant workshops will help young people "be herd" while discussing mental health

Getting the elephant in the room talking. 

That’s the goal of mental health group batyr in its two day “Being Herd” workshops next weekend. 

The workshops are aimed at young people aged 18 to 30, to help them safely and effectively share their experiences with mental ill health.

Orange hosted an Elephant Ball in March this year to raise funds for the workshop, and batyr’s Central West branch raised $81,000 for batyr, double its intended total.  

Being Herd workshop coordinator Rob O’Leary said the workshops gave young people an opportunity “to give a voice to their story”. 

“[Participants] may never have had the conversation with their friends and family, they may want to better articulate themselves to a mental health worker, or to just tell their story,” he said.  

Batyr has been running the workshops for nearly six years, beginning in late 2011. 

Batyr was named after a famed Kazakh elephant which lived in the Kazakhstan.

The elephant was allegedly capable of over 20 words and phrases in Russian. 

Mr O’Leary said naming the workshops after the elephant was a perfect metaphor, “giving voice to the elephant in the room”.

The workshops focus on rural mental health, with the youth suicide rate 66 percent higher in rural areas than in metropolitan areas, with economic pressures and social isolation some of the biggest factors in the disparity. 

Mr O’Leary says the stigma surrounding mental health is much harder to break through in rural areas.

“We really try and smash the stigma by giving people the means to open up,” he said.

He said seeing people come away from workshops being able to express themselves was “the best part of my job”.

“We hope when people’s stories become spoken about in rural communities, we’ll see less stigma as they reach out to their communities and start the conversation,” he said. 

“Although each story is so varied, we see lots of the same threads in them and people learn they’re not alone.”

“That can form beautiful connections.”

78,000 people have taken part in the workshops since batyr’s inception, and the group have run 20 workshops this year. 

The workshops are held in smaller groups of about a dozen.

Spots are still open for next weekend’s workshop. 

Go to to register your interest. 


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