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Helpline, a Saudi platform: bravery talks about your feelings, not bottling them up

JEDDAH: Adolescents often prefer to seek help and advice from their peers, rather than from their elders, when facing personal issues or struggling to understand the world.

Whether they want to discuss social issues or other topics they are passionate about, or are having issues related to anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, many find it easier to talk with. people their own age.

These are the people they have the most in common with, including the issues they face and the issues that affect them the most.

However, it is not always easy for young people to find and connect with this type of support network, and it became even more difficult when the pandemic started early last year.

Many people, regardless of their age, felt increasingly isolated from their families and friends due to lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing. But young people, suddenly separated from their friends and fellow students at a time of training when they should have taken their first steps in the world, were among the most affected.

A group of teenagers decided to do something about it and set out to make a difference in the world.

The six 17-year-olds joined forces to launch Helpline, a service that aims to build a youth community in Saudi Arabia and provide its members with all the help and support they may need.

As they searched for ways to raise awareness about mental health issues affecting young people, the group quickly grew to 40 people.

Their initial plan was to establish a hotline that young people with suicidal thoughts could call anonymously and speak with a counselor about their issues. When they realized that such services already existed, they switched to a social media and web based approach, but the name “Helpline” stuck.

“As the quarantines persisted, general morale plummeted and many of us began to have negative views on ourselves and our surroundings,” co-founder Fahad Al-Owaida, a student of Abdulaziz international schools in Riyadh.

“So, as victims ourselves, we created, a mental health awareness initiative that provided a way for everyone to reach out when they were under mental or emotional stress. “

Although the platform is run by high school students, it is not limited to this group. In fact, its founders claim that the target audience is anyone who needs help or just wants to learn more about mental health issues.

“Our goal is to remove the stigma surrounding mental health,” said Saleh Al-Zayer, co-founder and researcher.

“We want to disseminate information on different topics – such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), depression, anxiety and more – through social media. We also want to remind people that they are not alone.

People respond to problems differently, hence the different coping mechanisms. If people take the time to learn about these topics, they can better understand others and offer better help, Al-Zayer added.

Joud Al-Namnakani, co-founder of Helpline and his co-head of content and research, said 😕 “How can I increase my self-confidence? “Did I take someone’s feelings into account when we were chatting?” “

Helpline’s approach is to tackle complex mental health topics and raise awareness by discussing them in a simple, concise and relevant way.

“In our society, we don’t talk a lot about mental health,” Al-Namnakani said. “To answer what is missing here, we need to put mental health in a better light. So we have to demystify certain myths about certain disorders, for example. We must also clarify that a person struggling with their mental health should not be seen as an attention seeker, which is often the case (how they are viewed).

“Another common misconception is that they are weak. If you are in therapy, you are not weak. It actually means that you are brave enough to ask for help and get better. It also means that you will have a healthy outlet (for your feelings) instead of bottling (them). “

To interact with people, Helpline publishes weekly articles in English and Arabic, focusing on particular issues. Additionally, it hosts monthly webinars which are archived on its website, along with other resources.

The founders and volunteers of the group have faced their own challenges in their helpline journey so far. Because the pandemic forced them to work with each other remotely, it was more difficult to form bonds and relationships that would normally form organically through in-person meetings.

The most recent webinar hosted by Helpline on September 30 was a discussion on suicide prevention led by Yara Helwah, Adolescent Counselor and Mental Health Advocate.

“My goal is to raise awareness about mental health in the Middle East and I work very hard to break the stigma, in any language.

“I just want people to talk about what they’re going through and Helpline brings it up,” Helwah said, adding that she shares a common goal with the founders of Helpline.

“They discuss, create positions and they also put the young generation in contact with professionals trained in the field. That’s why I went there without any hesitation.

She said she and the helpline were surprised at the reception given to the webinar, especially since it dealt with such a sensitive topic and was primarily aimed at a younger audience.

Helwah was “pleasantly surprised” by the willingness of the young people to learn, understand and open up to subjects that were unfamiliar to them, how responsive they were and how they were able to absorb information. Helwah added that it is refreshing to speak openly about mental health topics, and not on tiptoes.

Al-Namnakani said they were happy and proud that the webinar was well received by those who attended, adding, “We have received very positive feedback from them.”

Helpline organizers say their goal now is to expand the service. They already have volunteers from several parts of Saudi Arabia, but are keen to recruit more from other locations so they can help spread the helpline’s message to as wide an audience as possible across the board. country and have a significant impact with potentially far-reaching results. .

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