About Christine Bays
Christine Bays (@ChrisMBays) is the Executive Director at the Unsinkable Organization. After a 10-year career in Communications, Christine worked alongside Silken Laumann on the build and launch of Unsinkable in 2019. Since, the organization has reached 40 million people across the globe with their stories, resources, and events.
Christine is passionate about knowledge mobilization, making a social impact, leadership, building community, and disrupting the mental health industry. When she’s not celebrating and supporting the humans of Unsinkable, you can find her navigating the messy and beautiful life of parenthood.
Connect with Christine: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter
Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.
Unsinkable Youth Student Event
Psychology at the University of Toronto
**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.
Sam Demma (00:00):
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker Sam Demma. Today’s guest is the executive director at the Unsinkable organization; Christine Bays. After a 10 year career in communications, Christine worked alongside Silken Laumann on the build and launch of unsinkable in 2019. Since, the organization has reached 40 million people across the globe with their stories, resources, and events. Christine is passionate about knowledge mobilization, making social impact, leadership, building community, and disrupting the mental health industry.
Sam Demma (01:12):
When she’s not celebrating or supporting the humans of Unsinkable, you can find her navigating the messy and beautiful life of parenthood. Christine is a genuine, kind human being. We had a phenomenal conversation and she shares so much important and interesting knowledge on today’s episode. I hope you enjoy this, and I will see you on the other side. Christine, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show here today. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what you do and why you do it?
Christine Bays (01:48):
Yeah, for sure. Sam, thank you so much for having me on today. As you said, my name’s Christine Bays, not Miss Bays; do not call me Miss.Bays. I am a 30 something Mama with a very busy career. I’m executive director for the Unsinkable organization, which is a nonprofit founded by Silken Laumann, and I do it because I love it so much. I, I really started my career in public relations and communications, and found myself in a place where I loved the work that I was doing, but didn’t love the purpose of why I was doing it. So I really wasn’t pumped to kinda like jump outta bed every morning and promote software. So, you know, when I had an opportunity to meet Silken and work with her in the capacity that I was in mental health, and kind of helping people reach their full potential and talking about wellbeing, I just fell in love with it. And I knew that I needed to make a life shift and I took a chance and I did it. And here we are almost three years later.
Sam Demma (02:57):
I, I noticed you also studied psychology and I’m, I’m curious to know where your, where your interest in it came from.
Christine Bays (03:04):
Yeah. Oh my goodness. You vetted me. Awesome. Yeah, so I did, I did my undergrad in psychology for me. I think I’ve, I’ve always just had an interest in human beings. I had a difficult childhood and, and I really just wanted to understand myself and my surroundings better. I think I felt like you know, for the first chunk of years of my life, or really didn’t have a lot of control over my environment. And I think for me going into psychology, it felt like I could learn and kind of like take back some of that power and, and potentially help people. So the goal was always to be a psychologist. However, I could not pass statistics to save my imortal soul. So I switched, I switched gears there, but yeah, that was always the goal to help people.
Sam Demma (03:53):
I love that. And having personal challenges is something that is extremely relatable. We all have them like every human being does. We all face them in very different capacities. You don’t have to get into details, but do you wanna share a little bit of your personal story?
Christine Bays (04:09):
Sure. Yeah. So, so I grew up I had a single mom growing up. She was a teenager when she had me, so there’s like first layer of difficulty along our Merry way. And then she met a man who was my stepfather who was like really quite abusive. So for the first seven years of my life, it was pretty scary and pretty unpredictable. And, you know, it took me a really long time to like, come to terms with that, that, that was actually like true trauma and like truly difficult. I just normalized it and pretended that it didn’t happen. And it wasn’t really until I started working with silk and for the organization and like hearing other people’s stories that I was able to say like, aha, like that actually wasn’t normal. Yeah. And that was hard. And that was hard. Right.
Sam Demma (04:59):
That makes a lot of sense. And no, I appreciate you sharing that. And through that journey, like what prompted you down a different path? Like I know you’ve met silken and, and, you know, started doing unable work now, but were there any lighthouses in the darkness that helped you along the way when you were struggling that you think might help others?
Christine Bays (05:18):
Oh my goodness. Yeah. So definitely like you make the decision early on. It doesn’t happen in your thirties after you’ve. I mean, some people do, but I think for me, I made a decision very early on that I didn’t want to be a product of my environment. I wanted better for myself. And so like the first thing really, and truly that I did was surround myself with good people. So I grew up in a small town, north bay, Ontario. Nice. And I, yeah, love it. So I surrounded myself with good human beings and good solid friendships and just kind of like stayed on that path. And, and, and I guess like really did choose a path of, of love and healing without even realizing it. And, and I really didn’t start struggling until about eight years ago when I had my first panic attack.
Christine Bays (06:10):
And so I, I was kind of going along pretty well and like was running, I think in a lot of ways and not realizing like I probably had like low grade anxiety that I was like partying away or drinking away or, you know, doing like low level destructive stuff to like, not deal with what was going on. And then it wasn’t until I became an adult. So to speak that I, you know, had to pause for a moment and everything kind of caught up to me. So then it was like, then the, the journey really started for me then
Sam Demma (06:39):
It was when you transition from Christine to miss in this band. And for literally,
Christine Bays (06:45):
Sam Demma (06:47):
And for everyone, who’s wondering why we rented that twice. Do you wanna explain,
Christine Bays (06:53):
Oh my God, this poor girl. Yeah. So I, I spoke at a university event I guess a month ago. And one of the young women had tried, was connecting with me on LinkedIn about an internship opportunity. And she addressed me as miss FA, which is lovely and respectful, but I, I tweeted and say, I already made fun of me that I was like, I read it. And then I was like, excuse me, while I go ugly cry to an old cassette tape and really hunt for my blockbuster card, because just threw me back. I was like, oh, I’m like a real blown adult lady. I’m a misses.
Sam Demma (07:24):
That’s so awesome. In the spirit of going back, I want you to take me back to the moment you met silken and sure. And like, where did your vision, where did your vision come from to work with her and, and to do all this amazing work together? Like what, what, tell me this initial experience.
Christine Bays (07:43):
Okay. So I was on mat leave number two loving my children, but bored out of my brain. And someone that I went to my public relations course with had posted in our Facebook group at Olympian silk. And Laman was looking for someone to work with in like a social media capacity. And so I commented, we were introduced really, really headed off. And so initially it was really only supposed to be this like position that I would do a few hours a week. I would help silk in with her advocacy work. And it was just really cool opportunity. Let me first just say she was like, I’m at this place in my life where I wanna give back. I don’t want anything from it in terms of like monetary gains, I just wanna make a difference. So I was like, well, this is really cool because I’d mentioned before where I was like, not pumped to like jump outta bed to sell software, but this, I was like, okay, this is something I can use my for and really try and make a difference with this person who has like incredible vision and like just really, really beautiful stuff to say.
Christine Bays (08:48):
And so we started working together and, you know, she’d mentioned that she had this idea for something, but wasn’t really sure what it was. And it kind of just organically grew into this idea where it was like, okay, Silicon you know, she’s writing all these pieces for different organizations and third parties and getting in newspapers. And I was like, what, you know, you have the voice and the profile and the platform like to create your own, like why have you never created your own? And, and so it kind of just like started that conversation and, you know, she’s like, I’ve always wanted to, because for silken, you know, she had tons of adversity, tons, you know, this amazing story and went her whole life, hearing other people’s stories and, you know, wasn’t sharing them in a larger scale. And so that’s really like where unthinkable started with this, this, you know, want for people to hear these incredible stories.
Christine Bays (09:42):
And so it, it really just started off with like the two of us being like, okay, are we gonna go for this? Okay, we’re gonna go for this. And, and it was like, do we have a business plan? Okay. We’ve got this business plan. And like, I remember so many people being like, okay, so like what, what’s your target demographic? And, you know, we’re like humans and they’re like, it can’t be humans. Like it needs to be like women ages, like 20 to 25. And we’re like, no, no, no, we’re just gonna go for this thing. So we went for it and it it’s definitely blown up and, and grown from there.
Sam Demma (10:13):
So how did you meet her though? Was it at a conference? Like were, how did you cross, how did you cross paths?
Christine Bays (10:19):
So it was, it was through that, that friend who had worked with Silken at an agency. So she’d worked on I believe it was like a Samsung app. And so he introduced us, we spoke on the phone really hit off and like, I didn’t even meet her for such a long time. Like that just goes to show like the powers of tech ’cause she lives in Victoria. So we were just working on the phone like every day, just talking to each other and zooming and FaceTiming. And then yeah, when I met her, finally, it was like, I feel like it was like at least six months into us working together. Yeah.
Sam Demma (10:49):
And what makes you personally passionate about the work? Like I would suppose that now you wake up and you jump out of bed and you’re excited. What’s the difference?
Christine Bays (10:58):
Yeah, no, totally. I think it’s like, it starts off with like where we started, I think today, which was me wanting to better myself, but also like this need to help other people. And, and then me being like, okay, I’m probably not cut out to be a psychologist and actually, so looking joked about it, she’s like you would be the worst counselor ever. She’s like, you’re so a type and aggressive and I’m like, OK. But I think it’s like, I’m, I’m meant to be in the role that I’m in, like in terms of like, you know, who I am as a person and what I bring to an organization. But like now I kind of get to do both right where it’s like, I get to help people, but do it from a place of like leadership and business. And so yeah, for me, it’s like every day I get up knowing that you know, it sounds corny, but like I’m gonna help someone today or I’m gonna create a plan.
Christine Bays (11:53):
That’s gonna help 10 people down the road. And I feel like it just, it comes from like a really honest and natural place for me. So even like in the beginning, when I was just writing social content before we had a social person, like it came from me. So it was like, you know, if I’m writing content on like how to battle anxiety and like how to be okay with the darkness or a feeling like that’s not coming from like psychology articles, I read like that’s coming from me and that’s coming from silken. So I think like, it really is just like, it’s been almost like a pulse for what’s going on in my own personal life.
Sam Demma (12:26):
That’s amazing. And what does the work look like now? I’m sure it’s like shifted a little bit. Like what do you, what do focused on? Yeah.
Christine Bays (12:35):
Yeah. Okay. I laugh because, so like initially it was like writing, writing’s my passion. I love like I’m a creative. I love doing all of that stuff, but as my role has shifted, like it’s a lot of like liability and lawyers and accountants and like the stuff that like, oh, I don’t really wanna do, but silicon’s like, but you’re so good at it. And I’m like, yes, I am good at it. So I think it’s like, I try to make sure that I pull myself back into, like I said, the pulse of the organization. So I still work closely with, you know, program managers and our social media manager and like, you know, I’m starting to do live. So I’m kind of speaking to our community champions and getting involved in like the humans of the organization. So it’s not just involved in like, you know, the workings of running the organization. And of course, because we’re a startup and a very small team, like it really is all hands on deck for a lot of it. Like I do get pulled into a lot of different things, but you know, as it stands right now, I think it’s, it’s really just like a balancing act of like there’s 12 different things going on and I’m kind of doing a lot of all of them. So I get to do a lot of things, I guess, really to answer.
Sam Demma (13:46):
That’s amazing. And what are the different vessels or the different ways that unsinkable has an impact on the community on young people, your target market of humans.
Christine Bays (13:57):
Target market of humans? Yeah, totally. So the way that I like to describe it is the storytelling platform really is like the core, the nucleus, the catalyst for everything else that we do. So for people listening that aren’t familiar with the organization, we started off as a storytelling platform. So we managed to convince 60 said humans to share their most vulnerable stories with us. And it really was initially just Canada, but it ended up being global. So 60 amazing people came forward, shared their stories. And now it’s grown and more people are doing that. So as I say, like, are the catalysts, so it’s the catalyst for everything else that we do in terms of like creating events, creating community, creating programming, creating resources. So I think it’s really a catalyst for both sides when you’re looking at people coming to the organization.
Christine Bays (14:51):
So people coming, they’re engaging with a story, they read a story and then they’re like, oh yeah, actually like this like anger, irritation I’m feeling is anxiety and they have this aha moment. And then they realize they need some help with anxiety. And so we like to say like, okay, we have resources for you. We have a community of people who are also struggling with the same thing. Hey, like there’s some programming coming up or have you thought about this different events? So it’s the catalyst in that way. And then on the internal side, which is like where my heart and soul sings is working with the storyteller. So when they share their story, they’re in like they’re part of the family. So it’s not like a newspaper where like, Hey, can you share your amazing story? We’re gonna blast it all over the internet for a week and then never talk to you again.
Christine Bays (15:36):
It’s like, no, like these are people that it’s true, right? Like these are, we care. It’s not just the story that we want. We want that relationship with the person and we keep them and we do call it a family and, and we, you know, continue to help each other and take care of each other. And a lot of those people, and I would say actually, most people that come in and share their stories, they leave advocates, they leave advocates either for themselves or for other people who haven’t yet found their voices. And so I think like, that’s the beauty for me. That’s why I love it so much because you watch people just grow through telling their stories and then, you know, we keep those relationships.
Sam Demma (16:14):
And is there work with schools as well? Like I, I think a few months ago, maybe five months ago there was like a, a huge email blast about programming in schools. And I’m curious to know if that’s a, something that the organization is still looking to do or if, if it happened or tell me more about that.
Christine Bays (16:30):
So we haven’t like in any real way broken into schools. Right. So the email blast you might be thinking about was probably the CTV show that we put on in support of kids’ health phones. So we were email blasting, like all the schools in Canada, basically to be like, your kid needs to watch this because it was like this incredible production that our tiny team put on with the help of like a whole bunch of other people, of course, to pull that off. So that’s probably what that was. We we’ve also had in September we had a university event, so that might have been something as well where it was for first year university students, basically just to like adjust to the mayhem of attending first year in a pandemic. Yeah. Which nobody could say they’ve experienced. So but yeah, it’s, it’s definitely on the radar. But again, because the size of our team and the different, you know, magnitude of things we’re trying to do, there’s really no timeline on that right now.
Sam Demma (17:27):
Yeah. It makes total sense. How, how do you personally manage the amount of work and passion you have for unsinkable with raising your kid and staying healthy?
Christine Bays (17:37):
I drive my family insane really is like the short answer to that. Yeah, no, it’s, it’s a balancing act and, and I do struggle with it. I think it’s like my number one struggle because it’s like, I wake up thinking about it and I’m also like equally as passionate as of a mom. And so I think like, as a woman, I really struggle with like wanting to be that mom. That’s like, I’m gonna sew up your costumes and we’re gonna bake cookies and we’re gonna put on a magic show and we’re gonna run around the yard. But then also I’m gonna take over the world with this organization as well. And then also try not to die in the middle of that from like really like not taking care of myself. So I think like, what I will say is, and what I’ve come to is like, as a woman, like you can, or anybody really, like, you can have everything just not at the exact same time. So I think it’s like, sometimes I’ll find like I’m really killing it at work, but then like, my kids are like, mommy, like I, you know, I haven’t heard from you in a while. And then like, if I’m doing both of those, then I start to not feel so well. So it really is just trying to like, make sure that I haven’t left any of those three pockets for too long.
Sam Demma (18:43):
Hmm. I love that. That’s a, that’s a great explanation.
Christine Bays (18:47):
I don’t know if it’s, I don’t even know. Like, I don’t even know if it’s actually going to work out. Like, certainly sometimes I feel like the balls are going to fall. Like yesterday. I, you probably saw my tweet, but I drove my kids to school and no backpacks and you know, that’s, that’s just me, like as a mom, a few weeks before that I locked both my kids in the car at school. I had no phone, I had nothing. I was just like standing out in my sweatshirt and then I had to go ask people to like, help me break my kids outta the car. And it’s, you know what it’s just like, but they love me for it. Like they think I’m hilarious, you know? Like, and so I just need to be like, okay, this is who I am.
Sam Demma (19:22):
What do you, that’s so funny, first of all I’ve locked my keys in cars multiple times and it’s an old their car. So there’s no like, you know, because your keys are in the car, there’s a special feature where the doors don’t lock. And I have call CA it’s like private, the doors open kind of a similar experience. Yeah.
Christine Bays (19:40):
Sam Demma (19:41):
What do you think though is the biggest opportunity that exists in the space of education and with young people today? You know, I know there’s challenges and everyone talks about them all the time. What do you think are some of the opportunities though that exist,
Christine Bays (19:58):
Like in terms of like where one could go with their career
Sam Demma (20:02):
Or how we can impact young people as teachers, educators as an organization?
Christine Bays (20:08):
Yeah. Yeah. So I think like, so also just so I will preface this with, before I started before we launched UNS sinkable youth, I was actually quite uncomfortable with the idea of working with youth because I’m at this age where like 50 year olds understand youth because they have them and I’m at this sweet spot of like being so far away from my youth that I’m actually like feeling quite disconnected from youth. But so it’s been a great experience relearning, but I will say like the, most of what I’ve heard is like, we just need to listen to listen to what’s going on more and like less of like, okay, we’ve been through this, we know better. And like, this is the way it is. It really is just about like understanding what their experience is. And for a lot of times, like they just wanna be heard. And, and even like in some of the university events where it’s like, just giving them an opportunity to be heard and, and, you know, just be able to answer their questions based on like what they’re really saying, not based on like what I think they need to hear and what they need to know.
Sam Demma (21:13):
Ah, that’s awesome. I love that. That’s, it’s great advice because I think a lot of the times I’m not a parent, but I think a lot of the times as parents are as superior, you know, superior people to a young person in age, they try and, you know, in part their wisdom on, yeah, this is what you should do. And this is what I would do. And I think sometimes young people just don’t wanna hear that, you know?
Christine Bays (21:34):
No, I know I didn’t. And, and I think like that’s like, I, I really actually, I love working with young people and I’m, I’m so energized by them. Like every time that I’ve spoken, like, I, I did a humble thing a couple weeks ago and I’m just blown away by the young people right now. I don’t think I had anywhere near the level of self-awareness that young people have now. Like when I was 20, I, you know, I really, really didn’t. So I think like giving them so much more credit than, than people do, you know, where it’s just like, I was inspired by them. I learned from them. And I think like, like I show up not feeling superior more. So feeling like I, I can learn from them as well, where it’s like, you know, it’s an experience for me in the same
Sam Demma (22:19):
Tony Robbins used to say, or probably still says it to be honest, but I’m pretty sure he said one time that you can learn something from every person you meet and, you know, maybe your, you know, maybe they’re not gonna be better at PR than you are. But maybe they’re better at dancing and you could learn something about dancing from them and every single person because of their unique makeup, they have specific passions, right. Yeah, they’re probably well more well versed in than we are. And so if you approach every totally without open mind, you end up learning something very unique from each person. Curious to know, like, what is next for you? What is next for unsinkable? Like where do I see Christine in five years?
Christine Bays (23:03):
Okay. So definitely, definitely still an unsinkable. There’s no question about that. I’m not going anywhere. But for UN in syncable specifically, we are in grow mode right now. And like, I think our, my biggest challenge right now is trying to build capacity on our organization for all these incredible opportunities that come up. Like, it’s, it’s a great problem to have, but it’s a problem, nonetheless. So I think like in five years from now, I know that we will be doing exactly what we’re doing right now, but we’ll be doing more of it. We’ll be doing it better. We’ll be stronger, we’ll be faster. We will be more efficient. And, you know, I think, yes, we’ll be helping more people, but I I’d like to see us helping more people on a deeper level. So I think like one thing that’s, that’s new this year, that’s on our strategic plan is is that we really wanna be more program focused.
Christine Bays (24:00):
Whereas we, you know, we started out as like that, not a blog, but people would call it a, we call it a platform. And so now we really wanna make sure that we have program offerings for people. And so we’re piloting two right now, one for kids, one for adults really focused around general emotional health. And we’ve got some really exciting things coming up that are a little bit more specific in terms of, of topics. So one for bipo youth and one for youth with disordered eating. And so, yeah, there’s, there’s a lot coming up for us for sure.
Sam Demma (24:30):
Ah, that’s awesome. And if someone listened to this conversation, and is excited or loves your energy what would be the best way for them to reach out to you and have a conversation?
Christine Bays (24:41):
Yeah, social media probably. So Twitter, I am the stacked on. Okay. So I would say yeah, on Twitter.
Sam Demma (24:49):
And your handle, is it just Christine underscore?
Christine Bays (24:52):
Sam Demma (24:54):
Christine Bays (24:55):
Sam Demma (24:56):
Awesome. Christine, thank you so much for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it. I look forward to staying in touch and seeing all the amazing work that happens behind the scenes and we’ll talk soon.
Christine Bays (25:07):
All right, sounds good. Thank you.
Sam Demma (25:08):
And there you have it. Another amazing guest, an amazing interview on the High Performing Educator podcast. As always, if you enjoy these episodes, please consider leaving a rating and review so other educators like yourself can find this content and benefit from it. And here’s an exclusive opportunity that I mentioned at the start of the show; f you want meet the guest on today’s episode, if you wanna meet any of the guests that we have interviewed, consider going to www.highperformingeducator.com and signing up to join the exclusive network, you’ll have access to networking events throughout 2021 and other special opportunities. And I promise I will not fill your inbox. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the next episode.
Join the Educator Network & Connect with Christine Bays
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