Hamza Dar – known as Humz – was on a “downward spiral of anxiety and drugs”, made worse by undiagnosed ADHD.
In his first year at the University of Bristol he did not submit any work and had a 0% attendance rate. But he sought help through their mental health services, was able to turn his life around and left with a first.
Now he shares self-care advice – which focuses on meditation, visualisation and cold water immersion – with his “community” on TikTok.
Humz had been a promising young footballer who earned a scholarship to one of the best grammar schools in Manchester.
But during his A-Levels and gap year he fell into a cycle of long nights partying, followed by days of anxiety and depression.
“My brain started to deteriorate,” he said. “I was quite a confident guy but I developed the maddest social anxiety out of nowhere. It got to the point where I couldn’t even speak to my own family without feeling anxious.
“I had never really thought about mental health before. I couldn’t handle the anxiety, so I just took more drugs and drank more alcohol.”
He had been excited to study at the University of Bristol but his destructive behaviour only continued there.
“I only left my halls to go out,” he said. “I’d finally go to sleep at 8 or 9am and wake up at 6pm. In my first year I had 0% attendance and didn’t even attempt any work, my brain was too fried.
“My anxiety was going crazy and I felt so heartbroken. I barely spoke to my parents and I know my mum was really worried. I messed up her life for a few years.
“I failed my first year but couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents.
“I started talking to the uni’s wellbeing team. It was the first time I had ever spoken about my mental health: they were so helpful, they kept me going.”
Last week, Bristol became one of the first universities to receive a University Mental Health Charter Award
Humz was given a second chance by the University. During the repeat of his first year he received an ADHD diagnosis and chanced upon a self-help book by Dr Joe Dispenza.
He started to look after himself and took up meditation – sometimes meditating for an hour and a half at a time – and began visualising a different future, featuring a very different Humz.
After a month he began to feel renewed: “But it was a year or two before I felt healed and it’s still a process now – you’ve got to keep on top of things.”
Throughout this he felt a spiritual desire to help others with their struggles.
“I found my purpose in recovery and that’s helping others. We never learnt this stuff in schools but everyone should – and I want to help do that. In the same way that Marcus Rashford is for school dinners, I want be for mental health.
“Getting that first from Bristol was the moment that topped everything. I knew how important it was to my mum after all I’d put her through. I had to work really hard; I just kept visualising getting my results and hugging my mum again and again.
“Our relationship is the best thing ever now. We are super close.”
Humz now reaches millions through his TikTok channel, which focuses on mental health and particularly cold water immersion. Many videos show him slipping into ice baths. Two of his videos have been ranked number one in the world of all ice bath content on TikTok.
Humz has a cold shower each day, meditates morning and evening, takes regular ice baths and works out frequently. He no longer relies on substances as a coping mechanism and is instead “obsessed” with natural highs.
After graduating he landed a well-paid grad scheme with Pepsi, but turned it down to focus full-time on helping people improve their mental health.