January 29, 2020, by khyx2lyn
Interview with MINDAKAMI founders
This article is part of a series featuring projects and work done by alumni from the School of Psychology in the University of Nottingham Malaysia.
We recently spoke to two of the founders of MINDAKAMI, a self-funded initiative across multiple platforms that holds discussions on mental health, targeted primarily at Malaysian youth. MINDAKAMI runs various online projects tackling mental health issues, and they have recently branched out into offline methods of spreading awareness on mental health. Two of the founders of MINDAKAMI are Fiqa Abdul Fata (F) and Zulaikha Mohamad (Z), who graduated from the School of Psychology in 2016; they co-founded the initiative with two other members, Elya Tahir Rawther and Mimie Rahman.
Zulaikha (left) and Fiqa (right), co-founders of MINDAKAMI.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you are currently doing.
F: I’m Fiqa and I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Clinical Psychology program held jointly by USM and UPSI. During my free time, I enjoy doing outdoor activities and playing with cats.
Z: I’m Zulaikha! I spent some time studying an MSc in Global Mental Health in London. Now, I’ve returned to Malaysia where I’ve become even more involved in the mental health sphere. I frequently network and collaborate with other NGOs, give talks in universities, and I am currently the host of The Borak Minda Podcast.
You’ve been doing MINDAKAMI for a while now – what do you hope to achieve by running this initiative?
F: I envision MINDAKAMI to become a platform that serves the youth in terms of providing a safe space, fostering networks and disseminating psycho-educational materials.
Z: My dreams for MINDAKAMI are pretty big. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to grow and be more involved in the physical space as we have mostly done our advocacy work online. I hope that we’ll be able to offer more workshops, training, and perhaps even psychotherapy. I really want us to have a cool office one day!
Why did you want to be part of the MINDAKAMI team?
F: MINDAKAMI has given me the opportunity to work closely and interact with youths with lived experiences. It is quite enriching and it is certainly an eye-opening experience to be able to be in contact personally with these individuals and to learn to view life from their perspectives.
Z: It had a lot to do with my own experience of mental health issues. Three of our four founders are people who have lived experience of mental illness. In fact, I was diagnosed with type 2 bipolar disorder during the second year of my undergraduate studies. It was a difficult time for me, but with much support from friends I managed to get the help I needed, and I started to talk about my own experience with getting help. I didn’t intentionally want to be involved with something as big as MINDAKAMI – it sort of just happened because I wanted people to know that coming out on the other side of these difficulties is possible.
What are some of the rewarding and/or exciting experiences that you have had as part of MINDAKAMI?
F: We launched a campaign called #TeamNotAshamedMY back in early 2017 and it garnered attention beyond what we expected. One of the most memorable and positive outcomes of the campaign was witnessing how the campaign amplified voices of those who could not speak up on their own and connected these individuals with others who supported and encouraged them to talk about their conditions. It was a truly empowering moment to see the community being supportive of each other.
Z: For me, it’s mainly two things: getting to help people and being part of the larger conversation on mental health. As someone who needs to keep their mental health in check on a daily basis, I understand many of the struggles people face when it comes to mental health difficulties. People appreciate our openness and the platform we’ve created to help them speak about their struggles. The community can be pretty great; many support and encourage one another to get the help they need.
I also get to be part of the larger conversation on mental health, which gives me an insight into what’s going on with the state of mental health in Malaysia. Currently, I’m involved in a mental health collective that includes organisations such as SOLS Health, Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association (MIASA), Befrienders Malaysia and Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA). I get invited to events and meetings and we talk about what we can do to move forward. I often can’t believe they know that little old me (and MINDAKAMI!) exist.
What sort of challenges have you faced when running MINDAKAMI?
F: We started MINDAKAMI from the bottom; we had no cash on hand but only hearts full of passion. We decided to invest our time, effort and even the time we set aside for rest into ensuring MINDAKAMI would flourish. One of the challenges I continually face is managing my time, effort and rest time between MINDAKAMI, studies, friends and family. It isn’t easy to juggle everything at once and I find myself struggling to fully commit to this organization. It is still something I am trying to figure out up to this day.
Z: In addition to what Fiqa mentioned, I personally struggle with gauging how much time and energy I am able to offer and how to keep myself on top of things. It is like owning your own business: you’re the boss and you have to make decisions on whether or not to take on a project, for example. How will I continue doing advocacy work, but not neglect my studies? How do we sustain ourselves? How do we not bite off more than we can chew? My own mental health has been on rocky ground after graduating from the University of Nottingham Malaysia, so it’s been a struggle trying to juggle everything. But lately I’ve found that having legitimate breaks helps me a lot in reflecting and assessing my situation, as well as thinking about how best to move forward.
What are some projects by MINDAKAMI that you are particularly proud of, and are there any upcoming projects that you would like to mention here?
F: MINDAKAMI is continuously striving for growth since our launch. We have had both online and offline projects so far. One of the online projects that has brought positive growth is the #BorakMinda series where we encouraged online users to share their lived experience with others in the hopes that their story will instill hope and create a resilient community among our readers. We also run The Borak Minda Podcast, where we teamed up with AIA Malaysia to deliver several epsiodes catering to mental health-related subjects such as self-care and specific types of mental disorders. Finally, we run the annual, year-end BuddyBox Project that aims to deepen the connection and network between our online community by providing them the opportunity to do anonymous gift sharing.
Some of the offline projects we have had were the Tea & Talk series, where we gathered like-minded people to share their perspectives, stories and opinions regarding mental health-related subjects. Among the previous topics we covered in this series were healthy relationships, coping mechanisms, and support systems.
Z: I’m always glad when I attend our Tea & Talk sessions. There’s something really heartwarming about bringing people together to talk about life and things related to our mental well-being. The Borak Minda Podcast has been a really cool project too! I wanted to connect with our audience on a more personal level, so I explored the idea of running a podcast since most of what we do is online and text-based. AIA sponsored some of our episodes – that was really cool! I’m always surprised that people know who we are and see value in what we offer.
In terms of upcoming projects, we don’t really have any concrete plans per se. We’re mostly just trying to keep things afloat since many of our team members have started working and/or studying.
Do you have any advice for psychology students on their future endeavours?
F: Being a psychology graduate, I remember how frightening it was to see where my future would lead me to due to the limited opportunities available. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want or which direction to take. You will slowly get there and you should not give up on finding what your passion is. For those who already know what their passion is and which direction they’d like to go, I am so happy for you and please don’t ever give up on chasing after your dreams! You have what it takes and you can do anything you put your mind and heart to. If you believe in yourself, you’re already one step closer to your dreams and goals.
Z: Try everything! Psychology has broad applications, so there are so many things you can get yourself into. I encourage you to explore your options and to not stop being curious. Attend events on- and off-campus, volunteer or do an internship, have conversations with your lecturers or mentors (these open up opportunities for you!), make friends and have a strong support network. Oh, and impostor syndrome may be something you deal with in the future, but remember that even if you feel out of place, you deserve to take up space wherever you are. You are unique and have your own thing to offer! There can also be a lot of uncertainty once you graduate. It’s okay to take your time in figuring out what you’d like to do next. And it’s totally okay to deviate from what you think a psychology graduate should be doing. In my head, I can hear Dr Jess say, “Don’t panic!”
Finally, how can we find and/or contact you?
You can find us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with the username @mindakami. We host The Borak Minda Podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube. Our website is www.mindakami.org, and you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
This piece is reported by Markus Loke, psychology lab technician.