Shalmali Jadhav, Founder & CEO of Empathy For You, an organisation working in spreading awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. She also works as the Founder President at Letters at Empathy wherein the letters of empathy are written for people fighting depression. She has conducted workshops and seminars on mental health and suicide prevention in order to raise awareness of its challenges in society and has been awarded as a Changemaker from YouthLead org. She has also been approved with the International Membership from the United Nations at the International Youth Council. She has also started a petition to include Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) as a subject in the curriculum of schools and colleges.
Q: You studied engineering, but how did you plan to become a content writer?
A: I’m in the last year of engineering. Basically, since the twelfth standard, I started loving writing. I began posting small write-ups like poems on LinkedIn. I also started my blog on WordPress, called Hundred Visions, which was essentially a lifestyle blog.
When I started with LinkedIn, I was not sure about how to approach companies and was not aware of the concept of freelancing. While searching for content writing opportunities I realised that rather than doing a full-time job, I can work from home. I carved my profile in that way, started posting small write-ups, started my own blog and shared the link of the blog through LinkedIn and that is how it started.
The first invitation I received from a company for freelance writing was a travel company based in Bangalore. In my second year of engineering, I was working for eight different companies and have written for all kinds of the genre and different countries including UAE, Denmark and Canada. That’s how I started content writing.
Q: What is Empathy For You all about?
A: Empathy For You is a startup company founded by me and is related to mental health and psychology. Assuming the scenario of our country, there is a stigma about mental health. People don’t talk freely about it. Considering yesterday’s incident of Sushant Singh Rajput, talking about mental health is necessary. Talking about what you are going through and sharing your feelings to someone is also crucial.
So, with the help of Empathy For You, we are spreading awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. I started this initiative in 2018 during my second year of engineering. Depression has different stages and it might last for a few days or months or even throughout your lifetime.
One of my close friends had been going through depression and then I realised that she is not the only one, but there might be a lot of youngsters and teenagers who might be going through the same problem. That’s when I realised that I might be doing something for them. That’s why I started Empathy For You. Initially, it was not very active because I was still figuring out the path on where my organisation needs to work and what should be done. It was a 360-degree shift change for me because being an engineering student and coming to the field of mental health was a total shift for me. I started with a service of online counselling. Not only counselling but anyone who wants to share their feelings can come and talk to me. Listening to the people who are going through any mental health condition is very important.
Last year, Empathy For You became active and we started providing help in three ways. First one is online counselling, where we provide counselling services to the people. The second one, is we collaborate with schools and colleges to conduct lectures and seminars and workshops related to mental health and emotional health of school children and college students. The third thing is the Letter for Empathy. It is a very beautiful extension of Empathy For You because through this we post handwritten letters every month to those people who are fighting depression and to the people who approach us for online counselling.
Q: What is your advice to all those youngsters who are facing depression during this time of pandemic?
A: When talking about mental health, it is very important to accept the situation especially during this crisis. When you accept the situation you are making yourself ready for the worst that is going to come.
Secondly, keep yourself calm. Doing some physical exercise or meditation can really help you stay calm and connect with your inner self and give time to yourself.
Thirdly, there are a lot of people around you who are suffering from mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, so take special care of them. Be comfortable with them so that they can share their feelings with you. However, don’t advise them because advice might have a very different effect on the people. If you feel that the person should do some kind of an exercise then join them. Exercise with them together rather than advising them to do it alone. Also, help the person in any way possible. Make that person indulge in things that he loves to do.
It is not just for you, but also for the people around you. Self-care and self-love are also important because disturbing news is coming up every other day, it is very important to keep yourself in the track. Keep nurturing your mental health in the same way as your physical health.
Q: You are an engineering student, a content writer and an entrepreneur. How do you manage your work and studies simultaneously?
A: Being an engineering and a mental health advocate are two different things. However, you can see my passion for mental health and related to psychology. So I have divided my day into two halves, the first half is given to my submissions and projects related to engineering. The second half of the day is dedicated to Empathy For You which includes taking up new events or starting new projects or taking counselling sessions and being there. This is the time which needs a lot of effort for planning, for the collaboration works and preparing for the next day. So that is how it works.
Empathy For You is also available on LinkedIn and YouTube.