A listening ear at touch of button
Evelyn Makena @evemake_g
The current Covid-19 pandemic has altered social patterns including lessening physical interactions.
It has also exacerbated loneliness, an already existing problem that causes people to feel isolated even when physically connected to others.
Now, a new app, HearMe, wants to change that by offering users from around the world the much needed support to cope with loneliness.
It offers real time human connection by availing people to listen to users online.
“Essentially, the app offers people a chance to be heard and validated and know that they are not alone,” says Adam Lippin, founder and chief executive.
When he launched the app in February, he had not foreseen the impact Covid-19 would have on social interactions across the world.
Now the app, with more tha 15,000 users, is helping maintain human connections and offering emotional support to suppress loneliness.
When Lippin conceptualised the idea in January, he was driven by his own need to beat loneliness.
For years, he battled bouts of loneliness, a situation that drove him into drug addiction in his 20s. Years after he had overcome the addiction, loneliness still persisted.
“I tried remedies like yoga and meditation. This was really helpful but at the same time it kept me isolated from other people because it made me focus inwards not outwards,” says Lippin, who has been sober for 23 years now.
Four years ago, when he sold Atomic Wings, a chain of restaurants he owned in New York, he dedicated his time to his passion of looking for innovative solutions to give people a safe space to be heard and create human connections.
Loneliness is classified as an emerging public health concern that can cause early death and carries similar risk to cigarette smoking.
In addition to premature mortality, loneliness is linked to other negative health outcomes, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia and depression.
According to a 2020 Lancet Journal , though loneliness and social isolation are common in older people, but the problem affects people of all age groups.
Young adults (18 to 24 years) experience the highest rates of loneliness with half of this group reporting to feeling lonely and often turning to alcohol to cope. Covid-19 has led to a spike of people who are isolated across all age groups.
HearMe offers peer support on a range of issues, including relationships, identity crisis, addiction and work related challenges. The company has trained 1,500 volunteer listeners to connect with users and offer them a compassionate ear.
Users are linked up with listeners based on the categories they choose.
“The person you speak to has been through similar issues and can share and listen based on the theme selected,” says Lippin.
Users connect to people that are available to listen to them on the app through chats. It has recorded increase in activity during the Covid-19 period, with the average duration of sessions being 27 minutes.
The rationale behind HearMe app is to offer users an empathetic ear not to solve their problems hence the platform has not enlisted experts such as psychologists and professional counsellors.
“The desire to be there for another person is the most important thing. Our goal is not to solve people’s problems, we are just there to listen and show concern and that in itself is very important,” he adds.
The app is available for free on AppStore (for IOS gadgets) and PlayStore (for Androids) and allows users to specify the preferences for the listener including the gender and age.
App users report to feeling less lonely and their mood improving after a few chats. HearMe statistics show that 94 per cent of users reported to feeling better after just one session on the app.
Among the key concerns that have raised on the platform on the past few months are anxiety over Covid-19, trouble with relationships and work related stress.
“People say they are tired of being locked up while others are anxious about their job security post Covid-19 and then there are those who just want to talk,” says Lippin.