Sharrada Segeran at ANU graduation day in December 2023.

Mind matters most: Why a recent graduate is earning accolades here and abroad

Mind matters most: Why a recent graduate is earning accolades here and abroad

Sharrada Segeran at ANU graduation day in December 2023.

It was during the peak of the COVID pandemic that Sharrada Segeran noticed the mental health forums popping up around her home in Malaysia. 

As a student at the International Medical University in Malaysia, she herself was finding the pandemic mentally straining. The “experience” was overwhelming - her research was being restricted, and her university experience changed greatly as lockdowns and remote learning took over. 

“There was an underlying issue – a shadow pandemic – that was going on alongside all of this,” Ms Segeran said. 

“It was a huge change for all of us, and especially for students: university and college life is some of the most amazing years of your life.  

“Some of these students had basically completed their degrees online because of COVID. We started hearing from workforces that graduates are not as well equipped as graduates that used to come out before COVID. And I'm not surprised.  

“You didn't have that human interaction. You're fully put in Zoom classes. You don't even know your colleagues. I think the first time some people met was during their graduation, if they even went to their graduation.” 

Ms Segeran, who graduated from the Australian National University at the end of last year as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery (MChD), realised something needed to be done.  

“I recall a time I was still at medical school and out of 10 of my friends, eight of them were either depressed, were on medication, or were severely anxious, and it was all because of the uncertainty that was going around and everyone trying to do the absolute best and still you don't feel it's enough. 

“Can you imagine? I recall learning my neurological exam completely online. So the teacher is trying to teach us how to do a neuro exam and you're here with the tendon hammer trying to, you know, just hit your own tendons and try to get the reflex from it.” 

From this, Ms Segeran co-founded the Mind Matters Network in Malaysia. 

The youth-led network brings together mental health initiatives to reach school and university students from the ground up. 

Ms Segeran co-authored the first Handbook on Youth Mental Health in Malaysia, written from three different perspectives: a psychiatrist, a newly-graduated doctor, and a student. 

Within the first year, the network distributed about 3000 copies across Malaysia for free.  

“The aim is to educate the community, because as long as people don't understand what they're going through, they're not going to go and seek out help,” Ms Segeran said. 

“It is an organisation for youth, with the youth, by the youth, but guided by professionals because we needed those who have worked in this space to know what exactly we can do as a community to address the issue.” 

Ms Segeran’s work with the Mind Matters Network had her named the ANU Student Volunteer of the Year (Postgraduate) in 2023. 

    Sharrada Segeran at ANU graduation day in December 2023.

    Sharrada Segeran graduated from ANU as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery (MChD) in December 2023. Photo: Tracey Nearmy/ANU

    The ANU alumnus said the recognition was a reflection on her whole team and every person who has been involved with the network. 

    “Each of them had their own struggles. Most were students when they got involved, so we have put in our own money when funding can come through. We have pulled all-nighters from all over the world to get the projects going.  

    “The bonding that has come through with this is something that's absolutely beautiful. You know, we cover for each other, and every time there's a win like this, it's not an individual win, it's a win for the entire team. I think it's amazing to have all their work recognised because I wouldn't be here without them,” Ms Segeran said. 

    “Most importantly, it sends out an important message that in advocacy, it's not about one person, it's about the whole team. It’s not about you, it's about the work that you're doing.”   

    Ms Segeran, who has moved interstate to work as a medical doctor, said ANU played a pivotal role in her advocacy and career 

    She was elected as the equity officer at PARSA (ANU Postgraduate and Research Students' Association) before it closed down, which she says helped her integrate into the ANU community. 

    “When I came to ANU I realised that you may be in different places, but the issues are always similar,” she said. 

    “It's different in the terms of context and how we go about it and how advocacy itself works, but it doesn't matter where you are based, you are always serving people and I think that's a very important message that comes with medicine as well. 

    “Navigating the new space and learning the ropes of being a junior doctor ... it’s a whole new ball game, but it is exciting as there is always something new to learn.  

    “There are a few new initiatives we are working on in Mind Matters and I can’t wait to see the programmes being rolled out soon.” 

    • Nominations for the 2025 Alumni Awards are now open. Past recipients have included change-makers in policy, champions in sustainability, Indigenous entrepreneurs, and advocates for human rights around the globe. You can see the 2023 ANU Alumni Award recipients here

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