One of the most pressing challenges in higher education today is addressing the crisis of student mental health. Senior Neuroscience major Zafir Naseem is on a mission to attack this problem head on through his work as an advocate with UMD’s chapter of Active Minds, a nonprofit focusing on student mental health issues. Last week, Zafir participated in the “Students’ View: The Future of Campus Mental Health and Belonging” panel at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Chronicle Festival where he discussed the importance of tackling student mental health issues and creating a welcoming and connected campus community. 

Zafir is a longtime mental health advocate, having established a chapter of Active Minds at his high school and reviving UMD’s chapter as well. Through the Neuroscience major, Zafir has further realized his desire to better understand the causes and impacts of mental health issues, stating that “as a Neuroscience major, I’ve learned much about how the brain works and how critical brain regions’ underlying and overall structure relate to different neurobehavioral and mental health conditions.”

During the panel, Zafir covered a range of topics relating to student mental health at UMD, particularly the need for the University to consistently communicate to students the wide array of mental health resources available to them. According to Zafir, while UMD does offer a variety of resources, many students are not aware of all the resources available to them. He also highlighted the importance of equity in mental health, arguing that “we must acknowledge that our campus is diverse and requires culturally competent care that will consider the unique experiences and needs of students from different backgrounds.” Like many other students, Zafir began classes at UMD during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when classes were online. Because of this, he also spoke to the particular challenges of reaching out to students and creating connections in a virtual academic environment. 

To hear more from Zafir on this panel, you can register for Day 1 of the Chronicle Festival here to download the panel recording.

Senior Neuroscience Major and mental health advocate Zafir Naseem