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The power of stories

Updated: Nov 23, 2018


I recently presented at an anti- bullying and student mental well-being conference in Sydney. I was asked to talk about the role of data and because KiVa collects a lot of data I knew I could do that really easily. When I was practising my presentation a colleague of mine noticed how animated I was when I told stories to illustrate the impact of the programme and how lacking in animation I was when explaining graphs. Good feedback! So, I not only put more expression into my graph explanations but I  decided to add more stories. My presentation was well-received!

This experience made me very aware of other presenters and how they illustrated their talks with stories. I was also very aware of how the audience reacted and unsurprisingly, stories caught people’s attention more than theory or numbers.  One presentation in particular illustrated the case for the healing power of stories.

Natalie Vasiliou works for an organisation called Batyr. This organisation uses the power of stories to strengthen and heal young people who are experiencing issues with mental health. The strap line off the landing page on the website says it all:

batyr is a ‘for purpose’ preventative mental health organisation, created and driven by young people, for young people. We smash the stigma surrounding mental ill health and empower young people to reach out for support. We help create communities that support young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Read more about batyr here

Historically, the name Batyr comes from an Indian elephant born in a zoo in Kazakhstan allegedly able to speak about 20 phrases. The elephant became world renowned for ‘telling stories’. Batyr, the organisation, was founded by a young man who had been highly successful academically, as an athlete, and as a leader. However, at university he had been deeply depressed and his first attempt at getting help failed although he did receive help later on.

One of the ways that Batyr works is by empowering people who have mental illness to tell their stories to other young people to give them hope. One example described in the presentation was of a young woman who had suffered severe abuse as a child. She was coached to tell her story in a way that did not cause her to relive her pain but to conquer it. Her experience has been used to inspire other young people to get the help they need. 

The power of stories. 

Jessica Craig