Kaajal: Smashing the stigma against OCD
This story was written by Asia Rinehart and edited for length and clarity.
At thirteen years old, Kaajal Gupta was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As a common therapy practice, she was asked to keep a journal and note down any behavior that she was repeating constantly. However, keeping a diary on you at all times is a difficult task, especially for a middle schooler, and Kaajal would often forget to jot things down. This behavior hampered her therapy, and in turn affected her routine.
Kaajal wanted to change the way people look at OCD and make more resources available and accessible. In 2017, her sister suggested she create an app to serve the purpose of the diary and more. With a team of ten teenagers batting similar problems and a supervising therapist, they launched the app Liberate: My OCD Fighter in 2018.
Since then, not only is the app active in India, the United States, and the European Union, within one year, it has seen more than 3,000 downloads. From talking to others at OCD support groups, Kaajal has grown her team to more than 100 members who are interested in the initiative. She uses her strong ability to empathize along with her own experiences to make an app that can reach and help as many people as possible. The venture also tackles stereotypes and biases against mental health by conducting information sessions and offering student outreach programs about OCD.
In a review of the app on Kaajal's website myocdfighter.com, Durga Nittur wrote: “I’ve been using Liberate for a few months now, and I’ve been coping with my issues much better than I used to. I feel it really made me aware of what I was doing and kept a record of it. I don’t have many people to reach out to when I get anxiety attacks. But I’m only one phone call away with help from this app. I highly recommend using it!”
Kaajal wants to change the way people look at OCD and make resources more accessible around the world, but her changemaking work didn’t stop there. She has also been able to influence other people in her team to start their own initiatives. For example, an artist in her team started a club in her school and was able to raise a large amount of money to do so. Kaajal says she wants to “concretize” her friend’s ideas because she knows it is difficult to know where to start in the process of making change. Not only has her app improved the lives of thousands, Kaajal’s lifestyle of addressing problems and forming grounded solutions inspires everyone.