‘YouPositive’ puts a modern spin on finding a healthy mental balance

YouPositive targets people between the ages of 18 and 50. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 02 August 2018

‘YouPositive’ puts a modern spin on finding a healthy mental balance

  • Start-up is an online platform that focuses on mental well-being and self-development
  • YouPositive is an online platform, founded in Jeddah in March 2017

JEDDAH: Mental health has a huge effect on quality of life, so taking steps to care for and improve it can help us to live our lives to the full. It can make it easier, for example, to build healthier relationships, make better life choices, maintain our physical health, cope better with life’s natural ups and downs, and discover and reach our full potential.

YouPositive is an online platform, founded in Jeddah in March 2017, that focuses on mental well-being and self-development. Its website features a quote from Roman Price, founder of LifePulp, the motivational and inspirational social network, in which he says: “If you’re searching for that one person who will change your life … take a look in the mirror.” This perfectly illustrates the YouPositive mission, which is to encourage people to find ways to become better versions of themselves.

This project, aimed primarily at people between the ages of 18 and 50, offers online and offline life coaching and psychological counseling from certified and licensed professionals.

When she graduated with a degree in finance, YouPositive founder and CEO Zahra Al-Mohanna did not imagine she would eventually end up working in a field related to psychology.

“I was working on a completely different business plan before shifting to YouPositive,” said the 32-year-old. 

“One day I was sitting in the living room with my mother and I received a call from one of my closest friends. Her personality is very similar to many people around us, that of a lost person who cannot make a decision related to their personal emotional life and status,” she said.

“My friend had been suffering from a serious problem for two years and I found myself involved in the matter even though I had nothing to do with it. She was suffering from her relationship with her family and herself and could not find the right help. She went to a psychiatrist who gave her medicines though she did not need them; she wasn’t ill, she just needed help. That made her depressed and she was asking herself, ‘Am I I really ill?’

“She was talking for two full hours, nonstop. I was fed up, and in the middle of the conversation I asked myself, why when we feel upset or have a problem do we not know where to go? I interrupted her and said, ‘You know what, this is a great business idea.’ When I got off the phone with her, I went to my laptop and started a totally new business plan.”

Al-Mohanna found and met experts in the field, refining her ideas until she came up with YouPositive, a modern way to provide self-development assistance and emotional support in an easy and comfortable way. It aspires to help people become the best version of themselves, thus creating a healthier society and a better tomorrow for everyone.

“YouPositive is a message,” she said. “I wanted people to get my message from the name, directly. I want people to understand that the way they live, and the way they control their thinking is in their hands. Positivity is a choice. We want to deliver a message of self-acceptance of the lives we’re living, and look at the positive side of it and understand that we also need the negative because it pushes us to move forward.”

YouPositive, she said, was created to answer the question that comes to mind when people feel stuck or trapped and are wondering where they should go, who should they talk to, and how?

“I wanted a person to be with me 24 hours a day in my bucket,” said Al-Mohanna. “When I feel stuck and I need someone to pull me out of this situation, I want him or her to be available to talk to me immediately.”

YouPositive offers life coaching and psychological counseling sessions online or through video and voice calls, depending on the client’s preference. In addition there are offline face-to-face sessions, in a group or one-to-one. They cover four areas: the self, parenting and childhood, career and income, and relationships.

A life coach can help people attain their goals, both personal and professional. A counseling psychologist listens to a patient’s problems and offers advice on coping with them.

The online coaching sessions are designed to offer clients a flexible appointment from the comfort of their own home or place of work. Privacy is assured and clients can opt to remain anonymous.

In addition, YouPositive has recently started organizing public events to raise awareness of its work and the ideas behind the project.

Zahraa Al-Mohanna, 32, founder and CEO of YouPositive. 

“We discovered that people need to interact with you directly to trust you, because our business is built upon people’s trust in us — without it they wouldn’t take a risk using our services since our field of activity is so sensitive,” said Al-Mohanna. “We started during Ramadan to test peoples’ interaction and spread awareness. People do not know what life coaching and counseling means; they usually think it’s therapy but it is not. We discovered that we began to gain trust and receive more clients.”

YouPositive’s activities include support groups, group counseling and life coaching. They cover several topics, including self-love, self-development, self-awareness, education and planning.

“I think what YouPositive is doing is excellent and so helpful,” said Abdulkhaliq Hanifi, from Madinah, who took part in one of the public events. “I attended a support-group event about loss and grief; it was really helpful. I also took seven minutes of free sessions and it was a great experience.

“I believe they should have more public events to raise awareness of the importance of psychological health, because we lack that awareness in our society.”

Al-Mohanna hopes that YouPositive will be available throughout Saudi Arabia within three years, and across the Gulf region within five years.

“We want to be ... an easy-access service that can help people overcome any crisis in their lives, whether related to the self, relationships, planning, business or anything else,” she said.

“We created YouPositive to suit our culture, which is a unique culture. We would like to be in the whole Middle East and North Africa region, and worldwide, in the near future, but we are focused for now on Saudi Arabia — our community is the main reason that we created YouPositive,” according to Al-Mohanna.

Pressure on girls for perfect body ‘worse than ever’, says Orbach

This handout photo taken on October 3, 2016 and released by the Hong Kong International Literary Festival on November 10, 2018 shows British psychoanalyst and author Susie Orbach posing at an unnamed location. (AFP)
Updated 12 November 2018

Pressure on girls for perfect body ‘worse than ever’, says Orbach

  • Orbach has spoken about the liberation women felt from the late 1960s when they began to challenge beauty pageant objectification and rebel against body expectations

HONG KONG: Girls and young women are under more pressure than ever to achieve the perfect body in an oppressive social media-driven world that could never have been imagined by 1970s feminists, says psychoanalyst and bestselling author Susie Orbach.
Forty years after the publication of her seminal book “Fat is a Feminist Issue,” the British writer — who was once Princess Diana’s therapist — said women were commodifying their bodies as they tried to conform to false images peddled by online beauty influencers.
Girls as young as six were being conditioned to think about cosmetic surgery, she added, with a host of industries fueling and profiting from body insecurity.
Faced with the reality of modern life, many women were turning inward, obsessed with diet and fitness or embracing being overweight as a sign of rebellion.
“It’s much, much worse than we ever envisioned,” Orbach told AFP on the sidelines of the Hong Kong International Literary Festival, where she was speaking about her new book “In Therapy: How Conversations with Psychotherapists Really Work.”
Orbach has recently been involved in a year-long international campaign to force Apple, Google and Amazon to remove cosmetic surgery apps targeting primary school-aged girls, in which cartoon-style characters can be modified with procedures such as liposuction.
“This is not just a problem related to girls and women, and it’s very, very profitable if you can destabilize people’s bodies,” she said.
“There are all kinds of industries both creating and feeding off these insecurities.”
Orbach, 72, said the inevitable outcome was the creation of a society where women would divert their energy and focus inward, rather than trying to change the world.
“We’re so self-focused now, we produce our bodies, rather than live from them. Your body is your product.”
She added: “If you just dropped in on any conversation, the amount of mental space that people take up with what they’re eating, what they’re not eating, their yoga routine, is expressive of the level of distress in our society.
“It’s not about contribution, it’s about how I manage this horror I’m personally living with.”

Orbach has spoken about the liberation women felt from the late 1960s when they began to challenge beauty pageant objectification and rebel against body expectations.
But the pressures back then started later, not in childhood, she told AFP.
“It happened at 18, it didn’t happen at six. You didn’t have girls and boys saying ‘Have I got a six pack?’ or ‘I’m too fat’ at six and seven. You didn’t have girls throwing up over the toilet bowl at nine.”
Reality television shows such as “Love Island,” where sculpted single men and women compete to couple up and win a cash prize, were both a symptom and a cause of pushing body image on impressionable young minds.
“Can you imagine all that human energy used for something else?” Orbach questioned.
And even while body insecurity had grown, waistlines had expanded, she said.
Orbach laid a portion of blame at the door of the food industry, noting that one obvious change in countries such as the UK in 2018 compared to 1978 was the proliferation of fast-food outlets.
But she said the obesity crisis had also been driven by the relentless demands of living up to an impossible ideal.
“As long as you’ve had one dominant image — of skinniness, of slimness, of beauty — that is everywhere, you’re going to have people in rebellion against that,” she said.
“Sometimes that rebellion is going to show in fatness.”

One of Orbach’s chief concerns is how the modern “gig economy” has created a world in which people are encouraged to market themselves.
“I think the rapaciousness of late capitalism is really a problem,” she said.
“We are seeing ourselves not just as consuming centers but brands. Young women are now being encouraged to see themselves as brands, and influencers.”
The dangers are even greater than in the decade after the publication of “Fat is a Feminist Issue,” when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s new macho political and economic era prompted a backlash against feminism, Orbach argued.
“It was a terrible period, but this is a much worse period, because women are allowed and are in all jobs, but they still have to look like dolls when they are going to their jobs and they still have to emotionally look after everyone at work.
“It’s a very bizarre moment. I never expected this.”