Counselling services are just a click away on Safe Space, an online platform in Singapore for mental health care.
The stigma attached to discussing mental health is quite often layered with complexity, which prevents us from talking about it or getting help. But it doesn’t have to be this way, thanks to the forward-thinking of millennial Antoinette Patterson, the creator of an online platform called Safe Space that offers mental health care and education. It’s as simple as booking an online session with a therapist of your choice and signing in.
At Safe Space, the signup process is clickety-quick, and users can access online counselling services in real-time. This is tailored to families, individuals and couples. That way, professional counsellors can provide mental health services remotely to all those who need it, while keeping prices affordable due to lower overheads.
A real need for easy and accessible counselling
Antoinette first discovered how difficult it was to access fast, wallet-friendly and discreet mental healthcare online when a colleague had a panic attack in the office. The process of searching for emergency mental health advice seemed debilitatingly long and drawn out. The 33-year-old remembers painstakingly calling a whole list of therapists with no way to determine who was located nearby or available for an immediate counselling session. That’s when she saw a gap in the mental health sector and decided to do something about it.
“When Safe Space was an idea in 2017, no one wanted to talk about mental health. Even investors were convinced it would never work in Asia!” she says.
Not to be disheartened, Antionette dug in. While juggling a full-time job in digital advertising, she created her research to convince potential investors that the combination of technology and mental health could solve problems people faced when trying to access quality mental healthcare online.
Then, 2020 hit. Who could’ve predicted Covid-19 would mark a steady decline in mental health on a global scale? Fortunately, Antoinette was poised to make her play in the market for mental health technology. In April last year, the platform saw a 64% increase in users and a whopping 200% boost in therapist sign-ups. The latter group was looking to join Safe Space to digitally accelerate their practice due to lockdown restrictions.
“Our usage has increased due to new Covid-19 restrictions. The anxiety amongst the community has grown and we’re seeing an increase in corporate clients signing us up as part of their business continuity plan,” she shares. “With the most significant change being the openness of all government bodies and corporations looking to us to provide a mental health solution for their employees.”
Companies that bring mental health to the forefront
Companies that truly value the mental well-being of their employees are lining up to offer Safe Space as a benefit. Managing director Farin Salleh of experiential marketing company amc asia! re-enforces the need for mental health support to help workers manage their stress.
“When the pandemic hit, many of us felt like we were on our own and detached from our team members as we could not physically interact with one another. Some talents expressed concerns over losing their jobs, as their skillset might be deemed as irrelevant due to the shifts in demand, while the more extroverted ones who recharge through human interaction were feeling the lack of motivation and drive to keep up.”
One employee shares: “I wasn’t sure if it was burnout or the lack of interaction that made me lose my will and passion in my work. I tried all ways to find my passion again but I couldn’t. [Safe Space] helped me to confirm that it was the lack of human interaction and constant working from home that made me feel this way. I spoke to the counsellor who assured me that my identity was anonymous. They asked relevant questions and provided helpful advice for me to stop feeling this way.”
“I slowly stopped turning to the counsellor and picked up ways to take a break. I learnt to take a nature walk out of the house from time to time. Now, I feel better than how I did last year.”
It didn’t take long for more companies to jump on board, including creative collective TBWA\. Director of human resources Jolene Huang explains that burnout from blurred boundaries between work and home, and simply not knowing when to stop working while coping with full lockdowns, are some of the issues employees face.
As such, Safe Space has been rolled out to their employees whether they require counselling or not. “Many of our employees are grateful for the accessibility of services which Safe Space provides. Others are thankful that TBWA\ has reaffirmed our commitment to looking after our people and engaging the services of a reliable partner to help them in their struggles or challenges.”
The future of Safe Space and mental health
With Antionette at the helm of her growing team, there’s no end to the dreams they wish to fulfill within the mental health space.
“Clients have taken the courage to seek out counselling support in getting the life they want. We want to help them get there with someone to talk to, who’s there specifically to listen to you, understand your feelings, and to have a place of solace to discuss issues openly and honestly,” she explains.
So how does Safe Space look after its own employees’ mental health needs?
“Our communication is open. We do monthly team retrospective meetings for all staff to share what’s working well and what’s not working well. Internally, for mental health, we provide therapy and mental health days for our staff. Personally, after work, nothing beats a workout or meditation. I’m a fan of F45 and Classpass.”
Antoinette’s top tips on caring for your mental health during the pandemic
- Rediscover hobbies you used to enjoy or try new ones.
- Schedule self-care time just as much as you schedule work meetings.
- Practice mindfulness daily with apps like Mindfi or Headspace.
- Go for a walk in a park near your office or home. Being in nature helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
For those who are truly struggling or know of someone who needs emergency assistance, Safe Space is just a click away.