As a 16-year-old sophmore at Clark High School, Arbaaz Karim is already too familiar with the mental health issues and alarming suicide rates that teenagers face. He’s seen the news stories about people his age dying by suicide and spoken with people who had been directly affected. He’s known fellow students who didn’t know how to face these issues. It inspired him to act.
The Plano student launched the fashion company The World is Yours to help raise awareness about mental health issues and the alarming increase in suicide among teenagers. He plans to donate 70 percent of proceeds from sales to suicide awareness charities, including the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 24, according to a 2017 study by the National Institution of Mental Health. According to the United Health Foundation, the death by suicide rate increased by 24.6% between 1999 to 2016. In Texas, there were 491 deaths by suicide by people within the ages of 10 and 24, with 107 of those deaths having taken place in 11 North Texas counties.
“So many people in my school were under mental duress with school and family life,” Karim says. “We want to be a channel to teach people not only how to cope with it but give them inspiration to maximize their abilities and their value.”
Karim was largely inspired to launch The World is Yours after volunteering with and attending events by the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas. After hearing what some of his fellow classmates were going through, he recruited his peers to help him create hoodies and t-shirts with The World is Yours logo: a map of the world colored in to form the face of a tiger, designed by Karim and his team—Gabriel Rivera, Dalton Sansom, Claira Blakley, Matthew Sotomayor, and Yuji Yasuda. They sell the gear for between $21 and $31.
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According to Karim, The World is Yours has raised about $1,000 so far, and he hopes to raise at least $10,000.
Artistic ability runs in Karim’s family. His mother, Shayema Rahim, is an artist who specializes in encaustic art, which consists of painting elaborate patterns onto wood or handmade paper. Many of her favorite pieces were inspired during the dissolution of her marriage, which she discusses at her galleries and showcases. She encourages people to use art to showcase their emotions and ultimately heal from trauma.
Rahim is a member of the Plano Art Association and her work has been featured in exhibits for breast cancer awareness and suicide awareness. She has previously donated artwork to local family violence organizations, including Hope’s Door and New Beginnings.
Rahim says she was never given the platform or the space to talk about mental health issues when she was Karim’s age. She is happy to see younger generations be more open about these topics and she enjoys seeing people help each other.
“I’m noticing younger women are more outspoken and open about their problems,” Rahim says. “Talking about mental health is so taboo in Bangladeshi culture. I had to teach myself to talk to the people I trust, because I didn’t grow up where it was openly talked about.”
By the time Karim was born, Rahim had already been in the states for seven years, after having immigrated from Bangladesh in 1997. Growing up in the States inspired Karim’s entrepreneurial spirit and his pursuit of the American dream.
Although the mediums they use are different, Rahim is proud that her son is wanting to invoke positive change within his community. She says she truly believes that Karim will make a significant impact with The World is Yours.
“Whatever Arbaaz does, he does it with his heart,” Rahim says. “He is very caring and loving toward his friends and he is very involved with this cause.”
Karim would like to partner with the Suicide and Crisis Center of North Texas in the future, and encourages people who are struggling with their mental health to reach out for help. On The World is Yours’ website, under “Find Help,” Karim offers phone numbers and resources for people who are in difficult situations.
“I just want to step up, as an individual, and as a group with my friends, to make a change.” Karim says.