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Living abroad can be a memorable experience, but it can also be a challenge, whether mentally, physically, or socially. Anyone who has been through this experience has most likely struggled with some sort of mental illness, whether knowingly or unknowingly. From homesickness and hardships in adapting, to the fear of missing out and the pressure of not succeeding, youth often grapple with the experience of living away from home.
With Egyptian youth, the difference in cultures can also cause confusion and loss of identity. Nevertheless, many still fail to acknowledge the importance of therapy and seeking mental support. Today, Egypt’s Ministry of Emigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs, in collaboration with Shezlong, an online psychotherapy platform, launched Etkalem Matkhafsh (Speak up, don’t worry), an initiative that aims to offer mental health support to Egyptian youth living abroad.
“Some of the big issues [Egyptians abroad face] are homesickness and adjustment disorder. Being able to adjust to a new setting can sometimes be difficult, both physically and socially. Missing people and certain interactions is also another thing, as well as FOMO, the fear of missing out. Another issue is performance anxiety. They feel very anxious because their parents or scholarship is paying money and so they’re constantly feeling pressured to perform, and this can actually inhibit their performance,” says Dina Mosaad, Clinical Psychologist at Shezlong.
Free of charge, Etkalem Matkhafsh encourages Egyptian youth living abroad to visit Shezlong’s official page, click on the link of the initiative which will redirect them to the website to register. Users can register using any name they prefer, in case they prefer not to reveal their real name. After which, they can select a licensed therapist according to their needs, and book an appointment. According to their preference, users can also choose to answer a few questions, and the platform would then match them to the specialized therapist for their case.
As the first online psychotherapy platform in the MENA region, Shezlong stresses the confidentiality of users throughout their therapy journey.
“It’s very important for us as Egyptians to start breaking the stigma around mental illness and psychological problems. We need to start telling people, both young and old, that it’s time to seek help and talk, and that you will not be judged for it,” says Cairo-based Clinical Psychologist, Farida El Ghandour.
El Ghandour, who has been practicing for seven years, commended the initiative and explained that raising awareness and attempting to reach out to students will contribute to the success of the initiative.
“Students living abroad often face a conflict of not knowing where they belong. ‘I’m Egyptian, I was raised in Egypt, I have Egyptian parents, I have Egyptian friends. But I’m also living abroad, I study there, and I have new friends there. So I’m torn between two lives,” Mosaad tells Egyptian Streets.
“We’re here to tell them that you can find a middle ground, and we will help you through it,” concludes Mosaad.