Illustration by Quan Nham.

Spotlight — Peer-Minded

Peer-Minded is a peer-to-peer mental health support network for UAE students founded by NYUAD alumni. What impact could their work have?

Jan 31, 2021

In Feb. 2020, NYU Abu Dhabi Class of 2020 alumni Hafsa Ahmed, Sarah AlKaabi and Anas Jawed were selected among the 10 finalists for the Ma’an Social Incubator program organized by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Community Development.
They were chosen for their initiative Peer-Minded, which aims to create a peer-to-peer mental health support network for students in the UAE. It is largely driven by a learning-based approach, equipping students with the knowledge and awareness of prevalent mental health issues through a structured curriculum.
“Taking that step ahead also provides [students] with a toolkit to not only be mindful of and take care of their own mental health, but also be good supporters to those around them,” said Ahmed, Co-founder, Outreach and Program Development.
The Ma’an Social Incubator program was organized by the government to help emerging social enterprises flourish by providing mentorship and networking opportunities. The Peer-Minded team participated in the incubator cycle for three months and came out with a concrete goal for future development.
Growing up in Pakistan, Ahmed realized that her upbringing did not necessarily encourage her to speak up about her mental health or reach out for support. Coming to the UAE for university also made her realize that it can be challenging for students to access support, an example being the long waiting times to see a counselor. She hopes that Peer-Minded will provide a foundational understanding of mental health and normalize dialogue around it as part of everyday life.
Currently, the team at Peer-Minded is working on several online interactive sessions led by mental health professionals that are slated to come out in February and March. They focus on topics such as conflict resolution and healthy relationships. The training curriculum, which is at the core of Peer-Minded, is currently under development. Ahmed envisions it to be fully available in fall 2021.
Noora Jabir, Class of 2024, was a content marketing and design intern at Peer-Minded from November to December last year. Jabir hadn’t been interested in mental health and decided to take on the job to further her passion for marketing, but was pleasantly surprised to learn about the importance of one’s well being. She said that she finished her time with a greater appreciation for what is being done to bridge the gap between services offered to university students.
“The co-founders themselves are a testament to how social support is helpful when you’re doing work because there were times when I had a lot to do for classes and didn’t really have time to focus on the internship,” Jabir recalled. “They really supported me and cared about how I was doing… I don’t think I would have been able to balance everything if it weren’t for all their help.”
Reflecting on her journey with mental health, Ahmed noted that she became more cognizant of how she was feeling and chose to prioritize her own wellbeing after starting Peer-Minded.
“Mental health is something that gives fuel to my life,” she mused. “By virtue of working on Peer-Minded doesn’t mean that I’ve attained a perfect relationship with my mental health. It’s always a work in progress, and I’m trying to get there as well.”
Charlie Fong is News Editor. Email her at
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