Words by Abi Scaife
“I thought of my life as a teenager … how listening to music had a big impact on how I felt and how I expressed myself. Because I was never one for talking.”
Aged 27, Huma Malik has spent a lot of time giving back to those less fortunate. From her work as a volunteer and, later, an employee at the children’s charity Barnardos, to her own social enterprise MusicTalkz, she has dedicated her life to helping others.
“I've generally always, someway or another, volunteered for charity since I was a teenager, but throughout the pandemic in particular, volunteering was one of the key things for me,” says Huma. “It was a highlight that kept me going.”
As a teenager, Huma – who volunteers for Leaders Unlocked, is a trained WRAP facilitator – struggled to open up about her own mental health problems and found solace and self-expression through music – something she now helps other young people to do, today.
“Through music, I realised I was able to talk about things that I wouldn't have been able to necessarily have a conversation with someone about,” she says. “I was able to express myself and get things off my chest in a way that was safe and comfortable.”
As Huma worked with young people, she noticed other people could benefit from the connection between music, mood and mental health. “It’s just a good, useful skill to have,” she says. “It’s a different way than expressing yourself if you ever need to.”
This is why she set up MusicTalkz, a social enterprise, engineered and run entirely by herself, where she helps young people open up about their mental health needs by getting in touch with their creative side.
The non-profit organisation consists of three-week courses, where Huma leads young people through learning about how music can have an impact on their moods, and how they can use music to help their mental health. The course includes some basic lyric writing and helps young people learn how to navigate their emotions.
Though it’s currently based online, Huma hopes to soon begin running the courses in person, and for longer periods of time.
"The aim is to allow young people to express themselves through different creative art forms, allowing and supporting their self expression in order to support there mental health in a fun way," adds Huma.
Because of her work supporting young people, in 2021, Huma won the 2nd annual Yorkshire Asian Young Achiever Awards, aimed at any young person between the ages of 18-30 of South Asian heritage who was born in, or lives and works in, Yorkshire.
These awards promote the achievements of young people who have been socially mobile and worked against disadvantages, broken through barriers, and could act as role models to other young people. A true inspiration.