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Leadership during a crisis: Touching base with Safe Space CEO Antoinette Renee Patterson

An entrepreneur’s take on the importance of mental health - and a safe space for refuge - in the time of Covid-19: for CEOs, business owners and beyond.

The idea for Safe Space was born out of its founder Antoinette Renee Patterson’s decade of experience in the advertising industry. Patterson had encountered first-hand the fast-paced, brutal rigour of the industry – as well as the severe stress that working life brings for many.

At the same time, seeking recourse wasn’t as easy as it should be. Not all therapists and clinical psychologists had an online presence at the time. The screening process to choose a right therapist was also daunting, as one had to make individual inquiries with each therapist. Finally, therapy either entailed too long of a wait, or was not affordable for the everyman.

Together with her co-founder Navaneeth Sreekandan, also from the advertising industry, they established Safe Space in March 2019 to address these needs. Essentially, Safe Space was an application designed to help people get the help they needed.

It does this by matching users with a growing pool of therapists and psychologists through the application. They’ll then be able to receive therapy online through chat or video calls, eventually moving offline if necessary.

The application was well-received: apart from dealing with the other barriers to seeking mental health treatment, it also granted users the chance to get mental health discreetly. When the Covid-19 outbreak hit Singapore and the circuit breaker measures were introduced, the application saw a 55 per cent increase in users coming to the platform.

(Related: Mental health wellness avenues and tips to get us through the coronavirus outbreak)

 

The Peak Series: Leadership during a Crisis

Continuing with our five-part Leadership during a Crisis series on how business leaders are dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and circuit breaker measures, here’s what we’ve gleaned from our chat with CEO and entrepreneur Antoinette Renee Patterson.

Safe Space CEO

CEO of Safe Space Antoinette Renee Patterson with co-founder Navaneeth Sreekandan.

Having the right tools is key

“We were always primarily an online business. So we already had the tools in place and Covid-19 didn’t really impact our business,” says Patterson. In today’s digital world, having online tools to manage a business will keep it nimble – even through a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Remember that your workers are also going through a crisis

Apart from throwing Netflix parties and using Snap Camera (that allows you to change your background during a video-conference call for fun) to keep the atmosphere light, Patterson checks in on her team daily to make sure they’re coping well. “Everyone forgets that we are in a pandemic. And we are trying to work during a pandemic. The goal here is to just really make sure that everyone is okay, and they feel secure.”

On doing their part

Safe Space is also offering pro-bono therapy to any health professionals in need to help them manage their stress during this time, says Patterson. Safe Space is also regularly uploading mental wellness tips as well as organising webinars, available on their Facebook page.

You never walk alone

“It’s a very lonely journey being at the C-level,” says the entrepreneur. “They don’t have to do this alone. There is no shame in speaking to a therapist, and always have a community of support around them that they can talk to.” Going to a therapist doesn’t mean you have a mental illness – sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective or a listening ear.

Says Patteron, “It’s to help them, and give them the tools that they need to get to the end of this journey, which is the end of circuit breaker and Covid-19 and to take their business to the next level.”

As part of the Leadership During a Crisis series, The Peak also collaborated with Money FM 89.3 to bring these interviews to radio. You can listen to Antoinette’s segment below.

More from The Peak’s Leadership During a Crisis series:

Hexogon Solution group MD Adrian Goh

The Lo & Behold Group managing partner Wee Teng Wen

Ninja Van CEO Lai Chang Wen