Health

Our story

Here's what inspired us to create Honest Empathy.

May 4, 2022
Our story

Hannah has been facing obsessive compulsive disorder for a long period of her life. She has one hand that she keeps “clean” or free from contamination with other objects. Her “dirty” hand is used to do her daily tasks. The fact that her clean hand could ever get dirty is a thought that doesn’t sit well in her mind. For most of her life, Hannah thought she was crazy for feeling this way. When opening up to her family and friends, they’d ridicule her situation and ask her why she couldn’t simply wash her “dirty” hand with soap and water. 

Although it was a logical response to her situation, her issue wasn’t one of physical cleanliness, but rather a mental roadblock.  Her hand may be clean, but not feel clean. One day, Hannah was sitting down with a classmate while she was having a horrible day. She decided to open up about her situation, saying she felt like “nuts” and that nobody could understand her. The classmate replied saying that she could relate as she was experiencing the exact same symptom of OCD. The two of them were mind blown. 

From that day onwards, Hannah and her classmate were able to find support in each other and become great friends. Hannah never felt alone again, and the situation pushed her to seek medical support.

This is just one of the 200+ stories we heard when forming our project: Honest Empathy. 

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We are a group of three students from across Canada: Tanraj, Chirag and Dollar, who have banded together with the mission of providing support to everyone who needs it.  In July 2020, during the midst of the pandemic, two of our co-founders, Tanraj and Chirag hopped on a phone call. We discussed feeling isolated and dwelling on negative thoughts as we were unable to go anywhere.

It was something that pretty much everyone was battling, and we wanted to help. The idea of a support system was integral to our solution, as it’s also something that’s helped our co-founder Chirag battle his eating disorder throughout middle and high school.

In Hannah’s situation, she could have gone to a support group and met, for example, 10 others with OCD, hoping to find similarities in their situations and connect with one of them by chance. However, at the time Hannah already felt “abnormal” and that she was being judged. Going to a support group was far too intimidating and required a level of vulnerability that went beyond her comfort zone.

Connecting people with similarities in a more casual and meaningful setting is exactly what Honest Empathy aims to do.

Along the way, we discovered that journaling was also important to our solution. Our co-founder Dollar, now in university, has been journaling every single day since being bullied in grade four and it’s helped her come out of one of the toughest years of her life. Journaling has helped Dollar find a safe space to express her thoughts, learn more about herself, and track her personal growth. Research, experts and people we interviewed all report that journaling is a great way to identify thought patterns that can be corrected and record personal progress.

We also recognize that sometimes it’s tough to understand yourself, and have accordingly partnered with trained coaches who can respond to reflections and point out important patterns. We know what it’s like to be in need and we want to be there for you. The 200+ people we’ve spoken to have helped us mould solutions that we know work well.

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We’ve also partnered with CMHA to have our solution recommended to phone callers, at a rate of up to 11,000 calls a day. Over the past two years, our team has grown from the three of us to 11 permanent members and 15 helpers.  And this is just the start! We can’t wait to grow even more because we believe that everybody deserves to feel their best.

We welcome you to our family and look forward to giving you empathy, and an honest connection.

With love,

Tanraj, Dollar & Chirag

Author’s Note: Hannah’s name has been changed to protect her identity

Written by: Sheetal Vemannagari

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