Gunnedah teenager Kohbi Barrow has taken out a national honour in recognition of his work with the R U OK? campaign.

Thirteen-year-old Kohbi won the Young Conversation Leader Award at the R U OK? 2023 Barbara Hocking Memorial Awards last week.

The awards recognise those who help create a world where we are all connected and protected from suicide and are presented in five categories: workplace, education, community, conversation leader and young conversation leader.

Kohbi, who recently moved to Gunnedah with his family from Western Australia, has been speaking at workplaces since he was nine years old and now connects with other students to promote positive mental health and to encourage others to do the same. Kohbi also started the Coffee Lid Project, an initiative to encourage others to be kind to each other and raise awareness about the impact of bullying.

Kohbi’s mum, Ree, said it was an emotional announcement for the entire Barrow family.

“There were a few tears but I was really proud that no matter what’s going on in his life, he’s always asking R U OK?,” Ree said.

“It’s a great feeling for us that he’s been acknowledged but also it has been a platform to raise awareness so other kids his age know they have a voice.”

R U OK? community ambassador, Deepti Bhatt, announced the award and congratulated the teenager for his efforts to promote connection and meaningful conversations.

“We’re never too young to learn how to be a good friend and ask R U OK?,” Ms Bhatt said. 

“Our young conversation leader Kohbi is setting an example for young people about the importance of making connections, looking out for one another and encouraging everyone to ask, ‘are you OK?’. 

“Kohbi has helped those around him feel more supported and connected and we are grateful to him for his efforts to promote the R U OK? message and values.”

R U OK? chief executive Katherine Newton said the Barbara Hocking Memorial Awards were first presented in 2019 in memory of the late Barbara Hocking OAM.

“Barbara was a fearless mental health advocate and campaigner,” Ms Newton said. “Her leadership and achievements had a positive impact on how people living with mental illness and their families are treated and regarded in Australia.

“These awards honour her lifelong commitment to peer support by highlighting the opportunity we all have to make a difference to those in our world.

 “Barbara was one of the first leaders in the mental health and suicide prevention sector to recognise the merit of the R U OK? mission in breaking down stigma. Our nominees demonstrate the values she lived by every day.”

As Khobi settles into his new Gunnedah community, mum Ree said the young go-getter is already planning his next venture.

“He wants to start a kindness podcast and he wants to do it as a collaboration with other kids,” she said.

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