Interviewed by: Eliot K. Raman Jones | Sports Editor
In cooperation with:
Carlota Santos Movilla | News Editor
Sela Musa | Features Editor
Zeshan Iqbal started “Young Minds Are Precious” on June 27th 2020. He graduated in 2020 and will be starting an MSc in Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway in September.
Good morning Zeshan. So, what is “Young Minds are Precious”?
Zeshan Iqbal: We’re a mental health awareness organisation, which I started to show everyone that it’s okay not to be okay, and that speaking about your feelings is an option. Our aim is to raise money for mental health charities and spread awareness. Spreading awareness about this would mean the world to me because I think the more people you reach out to the better.
What caused you to start this organisation?
ZI: Mental health is close to my heart. I dropped out of university in 2016/17 due to stress and anxiety, and working on myself at home really helped me make friends when I joined university again. I realised that talking to my closest friends has helped me so much. Not many people talk to their close friends like that. Not as many people do that as they perhaps should, and it’s a pretty taboo subject. I’ve realised over the last year that talking is one of the best ways to help. I’ve seen the difference it can make.
So how did you go about setting up YMAP?
ZI: Initially I was just going to make an Instagram account and start posting, but when I was researching how to start it up I went to the government website and realised I could register it as a charity and I’m in the process of making that happen. Social media provides a really good platform and all the people contributing and sharing has helped so much. I was overwhelmed by the positive responses I got.
Is there a specific aspect of university life that you believe to be more stressful than the others and that is responsible for creating a higher amount of stress and anxiety?
ZI: I think that all aspects of university life are stressful, it just depends on the kind of person you are. The main part is when a lot of people get to exam periods and stress out. It’s why I approached clubs and societies first, because they make up a massive part of university life.
You’ve reached out to several sports teams so far, how is that going?
ZI: It’s just the start for us. I’ve been in contact with Pole Fitness, Tennis, American Football, Netball. Even if it’s just that one person who sees a team like Men’s Football talking about mental health and thinks, ‘Well they’re talking about it, so maybe I should talk about it too.’
Do you think there’s something that universities could change to make students feel less stressed?
ZI: Well, without changing the whole structure of how universities are run, I don’t know really. I think mental health peer guides might be good, in like a pen pal system. We have them in some subjects, but they’re pretty subject-dependent. Not everyone has to have one, but just if you’ve got something on your mind you could text them. I’ve spoken to some of my flatmates and they’ve said that they’re too scared to go to the councillor too. There’s such a huge stigma against going to see them. If you see someone in the corridor outside you assume the worst but it’s not a bad thing to go.
What’s the next step for “Young Minds Are Precious”?
ZI: My plan is to work with all of the societies and clubs this year. I’m in the process of planning weekly fundraisers and collaborations with clubs and societies. What really matters now though is raising awareness, and getting people talking about mental health.
Links to resources for Mental Health Support:
Mind: For better mental health.
PAPYRUS: Prevention of young suicide.
NHS mental health services.