“I hope people can understand that mental health is as essential, crucial, and shame-free as physical health,” says Farida Ismail, founder of the Safe Space mobile application.
Born out of the need of talking to someone, ‘Safe Space’ is an Egyptian app that attempts to change the face of therapy in Egypt by offering affordable, accessible, and anonymous online professional therapy.
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The stigma surrounding therapy in Egypt has been slowly changing over the past years. According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2018 by the Ministry of Health, 25 percent of Egyptians suffer from mental health problems.
The desire of the 22-year-old founder and creator, Farida Ismail, to serve and help, led her to come up with the idea of the app. Ismail recounts that the idea came to her when she was scrolling through social media and began realizing that there is an app created for everything nowadays.
“I wondered why there wasn’t an application where I can talk to someone who doesn’t know me, won’t judge me, and who I can say anything to. I decided to go for it, and even if people don’t use it, it was something that I really wanted and needed in my life,” Ismail expresses.
One of Ismail’s visions for the app is for it to help people ease towards the idea of therapy, as she says people’s desire to seek therapy is overshadowed by their fear of being seen as weak. The American Psychological Association underlined that the stigma attached to getting help for psychological or behavioral concerns was once a strong deterrent.
“I hope that one day we can live in a society that understands that asking for help and opening up is the epitome of strength,” Ismail says.
Ismail underlines that the app is tailored towards people’s different wants and needs. She explains that its concept is relatively new as it offers a platform for talking to someone who has been through a similar experience. The cornerstones of the app, which are affordability, accessibility, and anonymity, make it stand out.
“The main thing that differentiates Safe Space was that I was focused on having a wide range of options, services, prices, expertise, areas of experience, and methods of talking. I want people to choose exactly what they need and what would be right for them. Since people aren’t all the same, I believe that the model of therapy also shouldn’t be the same for everyone,” Ismail said.
Due to Ismail’s lack of technical experience, the main challenge she faced was the development of the application itself. The development process of the app took almost two years, finally launching in May 2021.
“Another challenge I faced was getting therapists on board. Because the app is untraditional, many therapists were hesitant to join the platform and resisted the idea of online therapy. Others had an issue with the users being anonymous, but I wasn’t planning on compromising or changing what the app stood for,” Ismail explains.
The app is available for anyone aged 18 or above according to laws and regulations; Ismail aims to cater to people of different ages, backgrounds, and nationalities.
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“Although this app targets different people, I want to strongly focus on high school and college students, because I believe that these are very critical stages of struggle with identity and purpose. Safe Space offers the opportunity for people to share their struggles with others, and hopefully, help them feel less alone,” she shares.
Creating this app was a learning curve for Ismail as she explains how it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life. Not only has it been rewarding seeing it develop from scratch, but throughout the process, she learned how to connect with her own feelings as well.
“I will keep working on it until it reaches the success I know it is destined for. What keeps me going is knowing that it can help people. If it can help at least one person, I will be truly satisfied,” Ismail adds.