A Snapchat stream is providing a safe space for Arabs, and people around the world, suffering from depression to share their stories, and encourage others who are struggling.
The Artidote, a SnapChat and Facebook community, is fast becoming a go-to-place for many in the Arab world who are unable or afraid to seek professional assistance, and its saving lives too. Though mental health facilities are available in the region, the subject is pretty much still a taboo.
"People suffer in silence, and often in isolation, from conditions ranging from depression to addiction, traumas, anxiety and obsessive behavior," journalist Rym Ghazal wrote in an article for The National last month.
This is why the social media community, which provides an avenue for people to connect and share their thoughts anonymously, is gaining traction.
Jovanny Varela-Ferreyra, who considers himself a global citizen, launched The Artidote in 2015 as a space to tell stories, bond, empathize and heal through art. He told StepFeed he hopes that those who find The Artidote realize that "even though we're mostly strangers to each other while we're here, we are all in this together. "
The social media community allows people to remain anonymous while finding support and understanding among like-minded individuals. It serves as a powerful platform that has even saved lives. Last year, a pregnant girl in India decided not to kill herself after receiving support form the virtual community.
It started on Facebook, but last summer, Jovanny launched the SnapThoughts project on Snapchat. It asked a simple question: "What time is it there and what are you thinking?" Ever since, the responses have been pouring in, providing people a venue to share their dark secrets and receive support from a global community.
Jovanny never realized how much of an impact his project would have. "I still don't believe it fully, despite receiving 'thank you' notes on a daily basis from members of the community whose lives have been dramatically altered by this project," he said.
The communities founder believes that the stigma surrounding mental health will definitely change. "I hope The Artidote continues to evolve to be at the forefront of that wave and conversation," Jovanny said.
"The internet and social media is just another one of those culture-shifting tools that I've simply been attempting to deploy in order to create a positive impact on the world."
Here's a look at some of the heart-wrenching and thought-provoking messages that have been shared via The Artidote from the Arab world.
Confessions and messages of encouragement
On facing rejection and failure
Serious cries for help ...
The Snapchat feed has become a place of support. As some share their problems, many reach out to share words of encouragement and messages of hope.
Sharing is therapy for many
It gets better
And together, we can still smile!
Jovanny also told StepFeed that his online community will begin coordinating real-life events, workshops and meet and greets in cities around the world. Stay tuned to the The Artidote's Facebook page and Snapchat for more details.
Interestingly, the world's first mental health facilities were built in the Arab world
The world's earliest known mental health hospitals were actually built in the Arab world. In 705 A.D., the first was established in Baghdad followed by similar facilities in Egypt and Syria.
Muslim scholars were global leaders when it came to writing about mental health issues. Psychologist and scientist Ahmed Al Balkhi (850 A.D. to 934 A.D.) wrote: "If the nafs – psyche – gets sick, the body may also find no joy in life with development of a physical illness."
Despite an extensive history of addressing mental health, many Arabs experience great discomfort when discussing such topics, as do many people across the world.
Here's to hoping modern day technology can help people push through the dark days.