Accessing mental health services can be a major challenge, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where more than 65 million people suffer from mental health issues. Care providers are stretched thin, with as few as one psychiatrist per 100,000 people in the MENA region, while social stigma, discrimination and neglect often prevent people from attending psychotherapy clinics or seeking help. With two-thirds of global population not seeking treatment because of these challenges, and suicide the second-highest cause of death among young people, the need for mental health services is greater than ever.

For this reason, Expo 2020 Dubai’s Expo Live programme selected Shezlong, an Egypt-based start-up, as one of its Global Innovators. Shezlong is an app that connects those with mental health issues in the Arab world to qualified and licensed therapists. This app allows users to “attend” therapy sessions from the privacy of their homes, and has stretched this aspect of privacy by providing “texting therapy” via messaging apps.

The start-up already has a network of 150 therapists and 50,000 clients from 70 countries. The exposure through the Expo Live programme will give Shezlong the opportunity not only to expand its own community, but also to contribute to normalising mental health conditions around the world.

The Expo 2020 Dubai Innovation Series is a weekly blog series highlighting some of the creative and world-changing innovations that are being showcased via Expo 2020 Dubai’s programmes and pavilions.

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