The founders of a company incubated at QSTP set out to change the landscape of mental health offerings in the region.
Navigating the challenges of early motherhood can be overwhelming and greatly impact one’s mental health. There is often a lack of understanding about the struggles of a new mother intending to seek help – finding a mental health resource is only the first step. Recovering physically, managing housework, and taking care of toddlers and older children are only some of the reasons women delay addressing mental health issues postpartum.
Finding themselves in the midst of new motherhood and facing the pressures of child-rearing and postpartum, Najla AlKuwari and Noof Almahmoud looked to mental health resources for support. Upon finding little that was tailored to their specific needs, they began their journey to Therappy.
Therappy, a recent winner of the Product Development Fund – a funding opportunity offered by Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), part of Qatar Foundation Research, Development and Innovation – is a soon-to-go-live app that aims to provide users with online access to psychological counseling via video sessions, messaging, and calls.
Connecting users directly to counselors, it aims to eliminate the additional inconvenience of long waiting times and appointments associated with traditional psychologists’ visits. The app will host everything from booking, to sessions, and payment on the secure app to ensure confidentiality and a better user experience.
Unexpectedly for us, the pandemic began to require people to stay home, which affects even those already accessing counseling, and makes a service like ours all the more a necessity – it can be accessed any time and from anywhere
Alkuwari, the co-founder, hopes the new experience offered by Therappy will curtail some of the hesitation around seeking help for mental health in Qatar and the region. “There is definitely a stigma associated with seeking help in some cultures, and with limited counseling resources available, people often find themselves running into those they know while feeling vulnerable. Being recognized or confronted about matters they may wish to keep private often hinders people from pursuing the help they need,” she said.
Alkuwari hopes that the complete privacy and comfort offered by Therappy will encourage more of the community to seek help and receive it unencumbered.
The added anxieties of the entire situation – be it working from home, schooling children at home, or the many precautions being taken have caused more people to face mental health challenges and seek help
While Therappy has been in the works since before the pandemic hit, the drastic global shift in lifestyle has only strengthened the need for a service like it in Qatar. Alkuwari said: “Unexpectedly for us, the pandemic began to require people to stay home, which affects even those already accessing counseling, and makes a service like ours all the more a necessity – it can be accessed any time and from anywhere.
“Of course, the added anxieties of the entire situation – be it working from home, schooling children at home, or the many precautions being taken have caused more people to face mental health challenges and seek help. This has really pushed us to accelerate our development efforts and make it available to users as soon as possible.”
The app currently aims to enlist psychologists and counselors from across the Middle East, tailored to a variety of people, issues, and their needs. It will also be available for use across the Middle East.
The goal is to ensure that users are connected to counselors they feel comfortable speaking to, whether in regard to their gender, background, or experience. It also hopes to help mental health professionals expand their client base through the platform, liberating them from the expenses and restrictions of having a brick-and-mortar facility.