This series features young people who are working towards a better mental health landscape in the U.S., many of whom are involved with Neolth's Student Mental Health Ambassador Program.
Arbaaz Karim is a Gen-Z mental health entrepreneur from Plano, Texas. He is the founder and CEO of The World is Yours, an international startup working with over 240 students from 170 schools and 10 countries to redefine the culture around mental health by supporting student activists’ ideas. His work has been recognized by organizations like the United States Congress, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and Voyage Dallas.
Neolth: Why is mental health important to you?
Arbaaz: One thing elders always remind me of when I get caught up in pursuing the multitude of engagements I’m involved in is to take care of my health because none of my ambitions will be possible if I’m not healthy. I don’t see my mental health as any less important than my physical health. This is why health for me includes my mental health. Time and time again, I have seen how your mental health can significantly dictate your ability to pursue your daily endeavors. Looking back on high school, I reflect on how the immense stress of school, running The World is Yours, a social life, and other activities I was involved in would consume my mind throughout the last four years. There were days when that stress would physically impale me from going about my day, effectively reminding me that without my mind being sound neither would the rest of my endeavors.
Neolth: What has your personal experience been with mental health as a high school student? Feel free to include your own experiences or observations of peers.
Arbaaz: As a high school student, I’ve seen a multifaceted approach to mental health. I see my Gen-Z peers consistently showing their support for increasing mental health resources within the education system, but I also see our school failing to provide that. One of the big reasons I became involved in the mental health space is because of the number of friends I saw that lost their life or identity to their battle with mental health. Seeing the systematic shortcomings of our secondary education system throughout the past decade is what motivated me to start The World is Yours.
Neolth: Did your high school offer mental health resources? What is/would be helpful vs unhelpful for them to offer?
Arbaaz: My high school only offered resources for students who would talk to counselors. However, as most people know, students that are struggling with their mental health typically will not seek out the opinions of a school counselor. From my perspective, a program like Neolth would be a great start in reforming this tarnished system. Providing students a private manner to find counseling, educational resources, and videos will help students take the first step toward help in a comfortable way for them.
Neolth: How might you change the school system to better support young people’s mental health?
Arbaaz: This question has consumed a lot of the work we do at The World is Yours. However, I think that there needs to be a redefinition of mental health culture. Providing a myriad of resources to an environment that doesn’t fully accept mental health as normality will not create progress. This is why I think that the first step is to normalize mental health ups and downs for all students from an early age. A way in which this might be possible is by incorporating mandatory classes that create an open environment for students to talk to their peers and teachers.
Neolth: Tell us about The World is Yours! Why did you start this project, what have you learned from it, and what can others learn from it?
Arbaaz: For me, mental health was a part of my life way before I started The World is Yours as the son of an artist who donates paintings to local organizations here in DFW. But it wasn't until I woke up one day at 16 years old and opened my eyes to how friends that I used to play together with at recess were losing their identity or even worse their life to mental health that I really started to understand "what is mental health". It led me to ask myself, "why isn't someone doing something about this" and then I asked myself, "Well, why can that someone not be me?".
That's when The World is Yours was born, and with the help of my friends and now teammates, we eventually started our first clothing line to create right where we saw the problem first: our community. After generating a few thousand dollars in sales and, more importantly, seeing my fellow classmates and teachers some of whom I had never interacted with before, buy our clothing and mission, I felt the demand to take us to the next level. Which we then did by partnering with Neolth on our student ambassador program.
Neolth: Finally, what is your current favorite way to practice self-care?
Arbaaz: My favorite way to practice self-care is by distracting myself in some way. Whether that be aimlessly scrolling through TikTok, hanging out with friends, or traveling. It provides me a time where my mind is clear of my daily stresses and focused on something that doesn’t have a consequence to consider!
At Neolth, we’re on a mission to help students stress less, build resilience and become part of our compassionate community. Our app helps students when they're feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for their mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students. The company has won multiple awards for its app, including the 2020 Startup of the Year EdTech Award and the 2021 Tech for Good Timmy Award, San Francisco finalist. You can learn more atneolth.com