Philanthropy in Ottawa: TryCycle ‘tries to break the cycle’ of mental illness

From left, Cameron Ketchum (United Way East Ontario, director of community initiatives), Mark Taylor (United Way East Ontario, VP, resource development), John MacBeth (TryCycle Data Systems, CEO), and Cameron MacLeod (VP, strategy and alliances, TryCycle) (Supplied)
Editor's Note

Philanthropy in Ottawa is supported by The Foundation (WCPD), an Ottawa-based philanthropic tax planning advisory firm that helps individuals and foundations increase the size and impact of their charitable donations.

Who: John MacBeth, TryCycle Data Systems 

The donation: In-kind $500K

The recipient: United Way East Ontario 

OBJ360 (Sponsored)

The inspiration: “Our initiative is like air traffic control for your mental health. What we realized was that data empowers the clinician. We give compassionate and empathetic practitioners the data to do their job better. It is an insight into their client’s behavioural journey,” says John MacBeth, co-founder and CEO, TryCycle. 

A master’s thesis in Indigenous Studies at Carleton University set John MacBeth on a path he never expected. The result is an application called TetherAll, an innovative solution to the mental health crisis. 

With the goal of providing at-risk and underserved vulnerable populations with tools and resources, MacBeth and his team at TryCycle Data Systems wanted to think outside of the box and inside an application. The result is TetherAll, a mobile app-based engagement tool that provides a private, flexible connection between a client and their health team.

“We started from zero. We partnered with the best scientists and the best mathematicians and practitioners. They worked on the math equations. Experts from all over the world came together. We make it sing from a digital point. An efficient and simple-to-use platform was crucial as we wanted this app to be barrier-free for a typical person,” says MacBeth. 

TetherAll is TryCycle’s answer to personalized care and connection using human data, while also building trust in the mental health space, he explained. The platform can be used for substance abuse disorders, trauma, grief and loss, suicide and self-harm, domestic violence and child and youth issues. 

The “tethering” idea behind TetherAll is that clients can take an active role in their own health journey by checking in on the app regularly for 45 to 90 seconds. The data collected provides the clinician with the opportunity to be proactive rather than rely on traditional reactive methods. 

“We named the company TryCycle because we wanted to ‘try to break the cycle’. We have done this in a disruptive way. This partnership with United Way East Ontario is important to us. We believe charity begins at home and we finally can give back to Ottawa where it all started,” says MacBeth. 

United Way East Ontario received the commitment of $500,000 in-kind from TryCycle to help connect 1,400 Ottawa residents with mental health support. 

“Our team is grateful to TryCycle for helping people in our community with mental health challenges, especially those who are isolated, including children and seniors. The team has shown great leadership by providing individuals with the resources they need. After all, everyone needs to care for their mental health,” says Mark Taylor, vice-president of resource development, United Way East Ontario. 

“United Way East Ontario is very good at what they do and they helped to facilitate this, including connecting us with the City of Ottawa. They made it easy for us,” adds MacBeth. 

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