Father’s death spurred her to lend a listening ear

After struggling to cope with her father’s death last year, Ms Faz Gaffa-Marsh (above, with her son) started online community My Safe Sphere, which aims to end the stigma against mental ailments through low-cost small-group therapy sessions.PHOTO: FAZ GAFFA-MARSH

"A lot of my grief was about not being able to help my father when he had end-stage lung cancer, but I hope that in some little way, I can help these people in their lives."

When freelance writer and digital marketer Faz Gaffa-Marsh, 34, lost her father to lung cancer last year, grief sent her body and mind into a tailspin.

Her eczema flared up, her hair fell out and she had trouble sleeping. To make matters worse, all this happened as she was struggling to take care of her infant son and her grief-stricken mother. Her husband, Mr John Marsh, 44, is between jobs.

Having never gone for therapy, she puzzled over the difference between psychotherapists and counsellors, and struggled to find affordable rates.

After getting the help she needed from a nutritionist, followed by a counsellor, Ms Gaffa-Marsh wanted to spare others the stress she had gone through.

In February, she started online community My Safe Sphere, which aims to end the stigma against mental ailments through low-cost small-group therapy sessions.

The plan was to hold quarterly sessions, facilitated by mental health professionals and centred on a theme, such as grief.

Sessions would be priced affordably at about $12 a person, with the money going towards operating costs and charity.

But Covid-19 struck and the group sessions never took off.

The pandemic has, however, revealed new mental health vulnerabilities in the community.

After struggling with grief from her father's passing last year, Ms Faz Gaffa-Marsh, pictured with her late father Mr Abdul Gaffa Bin Jamal, started online community My Safe Sphere. PHOTO: FAZ GAFFA-MARSH

Since launching My Safe Sphere, Ms Gaffa-Marsh has received a few Instagram messages every day from people looking for a listening ear.

She has given advice to job seekers and freelancers on applying for government grants, directed people to affordable therapy sessions offered by the psychology clinic at James Cook University and given helpline numbers to a woman facing domestic violence.

Still, she is quick to point out that she is not a mental health professional - just a guide to those who are unsure of their next step.

"I see this as a positive way of helping others, something my father would have done too. He was charitable and a good person.

"A lot of my grief was about not being able to help my father when he had end-stage lung cancer, but I hope that in some little way, I can help these people in their lives," she says.

  • For more information, go to mysafesphere.com

About the series

This series is in collaboration with The Sunday Times to showcase people in Singapore who have come together to uplift the community in these trying times.