The name itself has an optimistic ring to it: Hope UAE. Keen to break the notion that mental health issues should be hidden, Iman Humphrey and Sophia Granello are determined to teach people that this subject should be voiced, shared and learnt from.

‘‘To reach more people, Sophia and I have created both an Instagram account and a website that enable others to gain wider knowledge on mental health, share their thoughts, experiences and worries as well as to view empowering messages,’’ says Iman, who aspires to become a clinical psychologist.

A student of Psychology and as Head of Dubai College Psychology Society, Iman has interests in volunteering, reading and philosophy, and also gives weekly lectures to students. She has also produced a Mental Health Wellbeing Planner for students that is currently being used at Dubai College and some schools in Dubai.

Sophia, who believes in the idiom ‘‘a problem shared is a problem halved’’, says the platforms of Hope UAE were created for individuals of all ages and genders to share their stories and experiences with mental health issues. ‘‘It could really help someone else in knowing they’re not alone,’’ she says.

A student of Drama, she is hoping to pursue a career in film and screen acting. ‘‘Although it may be brief, acting and performing can provide an escape for individuals as they get to be another character with a completely different mindset,’’ says Sophia who has attended workshops, summer programs and was cast as the lead role in a short film. ‘‘Being creative can positively impact your mood.’’ 

Excerpts from an interview with the duo:

What led you to co-create Hope UAE?

Stemming from our own places of pain, Hope UAE was created for readers to know that when they’re feeling at their worst, they’re not alone. Living in such a busy city, it is unsurprising that often people don’t have the time to appreciate their emotions until they take over them along with their daily routines.

Schooling has also become more competitive; students feel more inclined to compete against one another rather than focusing on improving themselves. This can also apply to the workforce for adults. Additionally, there are often many factors that prevent teenagers from seeking professional help such as financial issues, notifying parents/authorities, or that adults simply cannot relate to teenagers on the same level that we do to one another. So, this platform is mainly for people to access and understand that they aren’t the only ones suffering and that there is hope.

Tell us about the platform.

Hope UAE consists of a website and an Instagram page. On our Instagram page, we post motivational and inspirational quotes, with updates on new events we are launching soon. The website serves three main purposes: to educate individuals on mental health regarding the many different types, how to deal with them and how to support one another going through tough times. It helps by sharing experiences, concerns, and thoughts by giving others a voice and breaking the stigma that one should suffer in silence.

People can learn not only from the provided educational resources, but also from others, what they are going through, and how they deal with challenges and milestones along their journey. The padlet on our website in which you can share your story is completely anonymous.

What challenges did you face when creating the platform and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge is the emphasis on the fact that we are not professionals. Because of this, we constantly have to make sure we are careful, advocating that we are not licensed to give advice, but are here to understand your struggles, share our own experiences, and be an ear when you most need one.

Can you share some case studies of people you have helped/educated?

One was a student who described their struggle with balancing their schoolwork, extracurricular activities and social life. They just needed someone they could confide in and be open to. Another example was a student who was bullied and wanted to unload their anxiety and frustrations which had been accumulating over time.

Although we are not licensed professionals and hence cannot provide advice in the above situations and similar discussions, Hope UAE provides a sounding board for people to unburden themselves and to provide a like-minded teenager’s perspective of the circumstance.

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