Shezlong has reported a 31% increase in the number of clients using the service, and a 27% increase in therapists on the platform due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Shezlong Managing Director Mohamed Alaa told Daily News Egypt that many people have started to suffer from depression, anxiety and OCD due to the many stresses and strains of the situation.
As families are also spending more time together, relationships issues have become an important issue of focus, along with the higher percentage of women dealing with domestic violence.
How did the coronavirus affect Shezlong’s growth?
After the spread of the coronavirus, the government needed to take extreme measurements to deal with the situation. A part of the government’s decisions dealt with announcing a curfew, which affected the operating times of clinics. Therefore, many therapists decided to use Shezlong to meet their patients online. Also, the number has increased because many people prefer not to have face-to-face meetings for the time being, to avoid any possibility of the virus spreading.
How has Shezlong’s business volume grown due to the coronavirus?
Shezlong has achieved a 31% growth in the number of clients using the service, and 27% growth in the number of therapists on the platform
Has the number of registered clients increased due to the pandemic?
Yes, of course, due to the negative physiological effects of COVID-19 many people started to suffer from depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). As families are having more time together, many relationship issues have occurred along with a higher percentage of women suffering from violence.
What is your advice to tackle the psychological impact of the coronavirus?
We, at Shezlong, always advise people with the following
- Avoid loud music, noise, and don’t watch horror films;
- Surround yourself with things that help you feel comfortable;
- When negative thoughts attack you, stop and write three alternative positive thoughts for each negative thought;
- Reduce the number of times you watch the news on TV or social media to three or four times a day, up to a maximum of 30 minutes at a time;
- Do 30 minutes of exercise a day in an open, sparsely crowded place or at home;
- Unfollow all unreliable information sources, such as non-specialised Facebook pages and anonymous WhatsApp messages;
- Eat healthy foods like vegetables and fruits;
- Use your time in useful activities such as reading, watching documentaries and studying.
Has the pandemic contributed to the spread of your services at the regional level, and in which markets?
People across the Arab world are suffering from the negative effects of COVID-19. We have succeeded in expanding our services to other Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia. Currently, almost 50% of our customers are coming from abroad, which is actually a kind of support to the Egyptian economy as those clients are paying for the sessions in US dollars.
Tell us about Shezlong’s initiative to offer support during the coronavirus pandemic.
The idea stemmed from our social responsibility. We often do awareness-raising campaigns in order to raise psychological awareness in society, in addition to supporting the state in times of crisis. This is not the first campaign we have launched. We had offered support before following the 2016 cathedral explosion incident. For the current initiative, since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis in Egypt, many people have been affected by the crisis due to quarantine and precautionary measures that have caused some psychological problems in society.
How many beneficiaries of the initiative have there been so far, and what do you project for the future?
We have undertaken some partnerships with psychological organisations, clinics, and doctors to create a campaign through which we provide psychological counselling and awareness messages on how to deal with the crisis psychologically. We provided 15,000 free sessions for those psychologically affected by the coronavirus crisis, and the number of beneficiaries so far is about 1.5 million people. We provided 2,500 free sessions on the platform and used apps like Ask.FM to answer questions on psychological counselling, in addition to the direct broadcast of doctors via social networking sites to talk about how to deal with the crisis, and short videos.
How many doctors are involved in providing support via Shezlong? Do you aim to increase that in the future?
We have about 350 doctors and psychotherapists now, and we expect the number of doctors to increase in the coming period due to several reasons. The most important of these is the fact that some doctors have had to close their clinics due to the precautionary measures, so they have more time to provide consultations and sessions through the site. Some doctors are also eager to participate in the campaign to spread psychological awareness during the crisis.
The number of views of the platform’s awareness campaigns reached 1.5 million. How many views are you targeting by the end of May?
We expect the views to rise to 3 million by the end of May, as people require such services amid the current circumstances and given the time they spend on social media.
What is the size of Shezlong’s investment, and do you have expansions planned in 2020?
The size of our investments has not been announced yet, but it is sufficient to implement our expansion plan in Egypt and the Arab countries, and to provide multiple services related to mental health, such as the psychological treatment service by writing, and offering a psychological clinic management system. Our aim is to become a leader in the mental health sector in the Arab world.
How many customers have you helped so far?
The number of Shezlong customers has now reached 70,000 clients from 75 countries globally, and we receive hundreds of cases daily. The demand has also risen recently due to the current crisis, because we provide the service safely and easily for the customer.
Are there general symptoms that Shezlong has noticed in those who want to have sessions or support during the pandemic?
The most prominent symptoms that our doctors note are the inability of people to deal with negative feelings about the crisis, fear of the future, some depression. There has also been a disturbance of relations between spouses due to the extraordinarily long period that the husband has stayed at home, which has given more room for confrontation, and psychological problems related to children.
What is the appropriate treatment for people with depression due to the quarantine?
The appropriate treatment is psychotherapy or verbal psychotherapy, and it has clear and steady steps. I advise those who suffer from depression to book through Shezlong for free or paid sessions.