Theme: Good health and Wellbeing, SDG 3

Worldwide, mental health is still a subject persistently surrounded by negative stigma across cultures and communities. This October we once again observed the annual Mental Health Awareness day. During this day, global efforts are made to raise awareness on mental health in order to break these stigmas. Along with other barriers, they prevent mental health sufferers around the world from seeking professional counselling.

Especially in low- and middle-income countries, access to mental health services is relatively limited. Nashwa Mohammed from Orange Corners Sudan observed these barriers in her own environment in her home country of Sudan. In 2016 she launched the Positive Affirmations campaign for female empowerment; an annual 30-40 day online campaign that aims to improve the physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing of Sudanese women. During this campaign she discovered that not only stigma creates an obstacle to seeking mental health but also that accessibility and visibility of mental health professionals is lacking.

This inspired Nashwa to create her own her startup Fadfada, aimed at psychological and psychotherapeutic counselling. Her startup aims to lower the barriers to seeking mental health by increasing accessibility and reducing stigma as reflected in the name. “Fadfada” is the Arabic word for ‘venting’. Through this approach Nashwa hopes to normalise mental health support by signaling that seeking counseling can be seen as a form of venting, but to a professional therapist.

Fadfada offers accessible and affordable psychological counseling with accredited therapists through phone calls. Moreover, Fadfada educates and raises awareness through intensive use of social media. The startup also operates offline in the form of support groups and awareness events and campaigns.

Through its efforts Fadfada is contributing to multiple SDGs, but mainly works towards creating good health and wellbeing. Furthermore, Fadfada reduces inequalities and provides decent work and economic growth through its decentralized affordable mental health services. Finally, the startup aims to promote gender equality by creating job opportunities for female psychologists.

Even though Fadfada has only started operating since March 2019 amid the Sudanese revolution, the startup has already had many impressive achievements. To date, they have completed 221 online counseling sessions with 93 clients. They have also increased access to mental health services by creating support groups for victims, and survivors of the Sudanese revolution by creating discounts to mental health services for university students, providing free services for frontline medical workers and sexual harassment victims. Awareness has also been raised through two seminars on psychological wellbeing and its social media activity. Finally, Fadfada taken the lead in the organisation of Mental Health Day in Sudan 2019.

The stigma surrounding mental health is an widespread, but with the strides of startups like Fadfada we are certain overcoming these is close on the horizon!

Kingdom of the Netherlands