On the mind of Huda Chbeir: Beirut, the beautiful and damned city of dreams and dreamers. The city of opposites and extremes, of the hopeful and the hopeless, the cruel and the kind. A city of secret aspirations waiting to be unravelled and reignited. A city that is so painful yet so comfortable, so terrifying yet so warm. Needless to say, the city, its citizens, Lebanon, and its people have never been the same after the Beirut Explosion. Beirut is not recognizable anymore; perhaps eternally, if you believe in eternity.
That is when Be Brave Beirut came to light.
Be Brave Beirut is an initiative that started two days after the Beirut Blast. It was founded by a group of friends, when Ihab Richani (Co-Founder & Head of Communications of Be Brave Beirut) suggested joining forces with his friends, a group of graduates and students of psychology, to offer free emotional support for everyone who needs a comfortable place to talk and express their thoughts.
This initiative initially started small. It was basically friends supporting one another in terrible times. Be Brave Beirut then grew to become one of the most influential and plausible online-mental health- initiatives in Lebanon.
Today, Be Brave Beirut provides emotional support to anyone and everyone in need. Their services are easily accessible; Offering anonymous and completely free emotional support sessions. When needed, they also refer people to other sources for further guidance.
When asked about the ultimate goal for Be Brave Beirut, Ray Kaedbey (Co-Founder & Head of Content) said: “We would also love to bring the NGOs and the forces together, so we can be even stronger and even more powerful.”
Ihab then added: “We also want to promote mental health and normalize it. We need to talk about what is known as a “taboo” and destroy that mentality surrounding mental health in our community.”
When it comes to mental health, especially in the Arab world, it is often not taken seriously, and many refuse to consider it as a serious health issue. There’s a huge stigma surrounding anyone who sees a psychotherapist or a psychologist. That very act is looked down upon, not encouraged or supported, and is continually seen as shameful. On that account, initiatives like Be Brave Beirut are incredibly helpful in destroying this mental health “taboo” by talking about mental health, normalizing it, educating others, spreading awareness towards this issue, and creating a community and a sense of belonging for anyone seeking help. “It’s becoming a bit easier and it’s growing. Well, maybe not easier, but people now know where to go” says Ihab.
When asked about success stories Be Brave Beirut has achieved, they mentioned the reactions people are having towards the initiative, and how people in Lebanon are talking about Be Brave Beirut to their friends and recommending their services. “We consider this a huge accomplishment”, says Ihab. Because this is what makes it worth it, knowing that people are finding the initiative beneficial. “It’s not just a benchmark, but you’ll advice your friends to go. It’s completely free of charge which makes people more motivated to register, and we can also see how they want us to grow. Which we consider a huge success to Be Brave Beirut.” added Ray.
Ihab subsequently says: “We’re getting somewhere”
With the current circumstances in Lebanon, it’s incredibly valuable to come across initiatives like Be Brave Beirut; ones that can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that strive for everyone else to be able to see it. Holding onto hope in the most strenuous times is utterly exhausting. When asked about how they’re able to maintain hope, and what it means to them, Be Brave Beirut answered: “…because hope is incredibly important, very important. It gives us, the team, and the people contacting us the motivation we all need to carry on…it may be all we got.”
Sometimes, hope really is all we got. Someone who has lost their family, their home, their sense of safety, security, and Beirut, is someone who has lost almost everything valuable to them. What would make that person stay, cling to life, and dream if it weren’t for hope? Hope for a better Beirut; Hope for better days; Hope for a better future; Hope that there are people out there who believe in a better future, in humans, in kindness, and in other people who also believe in finding Beirut again.
We cling to hope and the idea of something better to come because, in that instant, it’s our only way of survival. It takes the weight of grief off of us for a few seconds- never eternally; I don’t believe in eternity. But those very few seconds allow us to rise and look towards the green light at the end of the dock, looking for Beirut, before it gives the weight back to us.
Beirut, we keep looking for you, wandering your streets, searching for anything that reminds us of what you were and how you felt. We can’t but have hope that one day, we will find you, and home will finally feel like home again. Until then, be brave, Beirut.
You can find Be Brave Beirut on Instagram @bebravebeirut and register for emotional support through their link in bio.