“Getting better at getting better”: How Sharing Mental Health Stories Can Shape Young People’s Wellbeing


Sharing lived-experience of mental ill-health is increasingly recognised as a promising youth mental health intervention. batyr is a preventative mental health organization that trains young people to share their story of mental ill-health safely through a speaker development program. This qualitative study aimed to understand how the role of batyr speakers shapes individual wellbeing, help-seeking behaviour, and stigma as well as how young people talk about mental health within their social circles. Data was collected using in-depth semi-structured interviews with 18 batyr speakers (age 18–35 years). Thematic analysis revealed five themes: Getting better at getting better, Growing towards self-acceptance, Breaking the wall by talking about mental health, Increasing connectedness and Reaching out for support. The participants reported overall improved wellbeing, as a result of increased confidence, greater self-awareness, and an increased ability to talk safely about their mental illness. Findings suggested that the program led to a reduction of self-stigma and stigma.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Annink, A. (2017). Using the research journal during qualitative data collection in a cross-cultural context. Entrepreneurship Research Journal, 7(1), 223-17. doi:http://doi.org.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/https://doi.org/10.1515/erj-2015-0063

  2. Australia: Online funding support for batyr youth mental health. (2019). MENA Report. http://search.proquest.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/docview/2239418847?accountid=14543. Accessed 24 June 2019.

  3. batyr (June 2020). What is batyr? https://www.batyr.com.au/what-is-batyr/. Accessed 4 June 2020.

  4. Bowman, S., McKinstry, C., & McGorry, P. (2017). Youth mental ill-health and secondary school completion in Australia: time to act. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 11(4), 277–289.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Corrigan, P. W. (2016). Lessons learned from unintended consequences about erasing the stigma of mental illness. World Psychiatry, 15(1), 67–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Corrigan, P. W., Druss, B. G., & Perlick, D. A. (2014). The Impact of Mental Illness Stigma on Seeking and Participating in Mental Health Care. Psychol Sci Public Interest, 15(2), 37–70. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100614531398.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. Corrigan, P. W., Michaels, P. J., Powell, K., Bink, A., Sheehan, L., Schmidt, A., & Al-Khouja, M. (2016). Who comes out with their mental illness and how does it help? The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204(3), 163–168. https://doi.org/10.1097/nmd.0000000000000461.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  9. Corrigan, P. W., & Rao, D. (2012). On the self-stigma of mental illness: Stages, disclosure, and strategies for change. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(8), 464–469.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Corrigan, P. W., & Watson, A. C. (2002). The paradox of self-stigma and mental illness. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 9(1), 35–53.

    Google Scholar 

  11. De Vecchi, N., Kenny, A., Dickson-Swift, V., & Kidd, S. (2016). How digital storytelling is used in mental health: A scoping review. International Journal of Mental Health and Nursery, 25(3), 183–193. https://doi.org/10.1111/inm.12206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Filia, K., Jackson, H., Cotton, S., & Killackey, E. (2019). Understanding what it means to be socially included for people with a lived-experience of mental illness. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 0020764019852657.

  13. Frattaroli, J. (2006). Experimental disclosure and its moderators: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 823.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hasking, P., Rees, C. S., Martin, G., & Quigley, J. (2015). What happens when you tell someone you self-injure? The effects of disclosing NSSI to adults and peers. BMC Public Health, 15(1), 1039.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hiscock, H., Neely, Rachel J., Lei, S., & Freed, G. (2018). Paediatric mental and physical health presentations to emergency departments, Victoria, 2008–15. The Medical Journal of Australia, 208(8), 343–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Keyes, C. L. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of health and social behavior, 43, 207–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kieling, C., Baker-Henningham, H., Belfer, M., Conti, G., Ertem, I., Omigbodun, O., & Rahman, A. (2011). Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: Evidence for action. The Lancet, 378(9801), 1515–1525. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0140-6736(11)60827-1.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Leamy, M., Bird, V., Le Boutillier, C., Williams, J., & Slade, M. (2011). Conceptual framework for personal recovery in mental health: systematic review and narrative synthesis. British Journal of Psychiatry, 199(6), 445–452. https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.bp.110.083733.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Lucksted, A., & Drapalski, A. L. (2015). Self-stigma regarding mental illness: Definition, impact, and relationship to societal stigma. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 38(2), 99–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. McDonagh, S., Cummins, M., & Gallagher, A. (2014). Peer work sharing of lived-experience in mental health settings: A qualitative study. Health Issues(112), 25.

  21. Mrazek, P. J., & Haggerty, R. J. (1994). Reducing Risks for Mental Disorders: Frontiers for Preventive Intervention Research. Washington (DC).

  22. Mulfinger, N., Müller, S., Böge, I., Sakar, V., Corrigan, P. W., Evans-Lacko, S., & Ruckes, C. (2018). Honest, Open, Proud for adolescents with mental illness: Pilot randomized controlled trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 59(6), 684–691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Mulfinger, N., Rüsch, N., Bayha, P., Müller, S., Böge, I., Sakar, V., & Krumm, S. (2019). Secrecy versus disclosure of mental illness among adolescents: II. The perspective of relevant stakeholders. Journal of Mental Health, 28(3), 304–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Nurser, K. P., Rushworth, I., Shakespeare, T., & Williams, D. (2018). Personal storytelling in mental health recovery. Mental Health Review Journal, 23(1), 25–36. https://doi.org/10.1108/mhrj-08-2017-0034.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Pahwa, R., Fulginiti, A., Brekke, J. S., & Rice, E. (2017). Mental illness disclosure decision making. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 87(5), 575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Pennebaker, J. W. (1993). Putting stress into words: Health, linguistic, and therapeutic implications. Behaviour research and therapy, 31(6), 539–548.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Schotanus-Dijkstra, M., Pieterse, M. E., Drossaert, C. H., Westerhof, G. J., De Graaf, R., Ten Have, M., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2016). What factors are associated with flourishing? Results from a large representative national sample. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(4), 1351–1370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Shepherd, G., Boardman, J., Rinaldi, M., & Roberts, G. (2014). Supporting recovery in mental health services: Quality and outcomes. London: Implementing Recovery Through Organisational Change.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Sheridan, K., Salmon, N., & O’Connell, N. (2016). Experiences of university students disclosing epilepsy to peers: ‘It’s a shared thing now.’ British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(8), 484–491.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. van Dijk, I., Lucassen, P., van Weel, C., & Speckens, A. E. M. (2017). A cross-sectional examination of psychological distress, positive mental health and their predictors in medical students in their clinical clerkships. BMC Medical Education, 17(1), 219. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-017-1035-8.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  31. Westerhof, G. J., & Keyes, C. L. (2010). Mental Illness and Mental Health: The Two Continua Model Across the Lifespan. Journal of Adult Development, 17(2), 110–119. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10804-009-9082-y.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Willis, O. (2018). Mental health crises seeing more kids forced to ED for help; experts call for greater investment. ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-05-07/youth-mental-health-emergency-departments/9728918. Accesesd 20 June 2019.

  33. Wilson, C. J. (2010). General psychological distress symptoms and help-avoidance in young Australians. Advances in Mental Health, 9(1), 63–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Genesis Lindstrom.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethics Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were approved by the institutional research ethics committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. All authors certify their responsibility for this manuscript.

Consent to Participate

Written informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Consent to Publish

The authors affirm that human research participants provided informed consent for publication of their quotes.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(DOCX 27 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lindstrom, G., Sofija, E. & Riley, T. “Getting better at getting better”: How Sharing Mental Health Stories Can Shape Young People’s Wellbeing. Community Ment Health J (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-021-00786-w

Download citation


  • Disclosure
  • Mental health
  • Stigma
  • Help-seeking
  • Young people
  • Storytelling