The stigma that surrounds mental illness forces many individuals to be helpless to be vocal about mental illness. At certain times, the individual himself is not aware that whether this is a disease, and as days pass, he finds himself drowning in the quicksand and cacophony of anxiety, trauma, and disturbing thoughts. As rightly said by Dr. Jehangir Khan a psychologist played by Shahrukh Khan in the film ‘Dear Zindagi’ – that society normalizes physical problems such as fever, cough, jaundice but keeps mum when anybody is diagnosed with mental illness to which they directly term as being ‘mad’.
Brain health in our country has long been ignored due to stigma and inadequate doctors and experts available practicing this specialty. As per the recent report on mental health in India by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), the country has 150 million individuals suffering from mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and learning disabilities, and has a skewed ratio of 3800 psychiatrists,898 clinical psychologists, and 1500 psychiatric nurses against 150 million.
Has Pandemic deteriorated mental health?
Amid economic slowdown, unemployment, loan defaults, pay cuts, layoffs have exacerbated the anxiety, depression, and domestic abuse in the pandemic. The work from home model has blurred the boundaries of professional and personal life, and has led to conflicts in managing the daily household chores. According to the National Commission for Women (NCW), the number of complaints registered under domestic violence in 2020 was 2.5 times more in April last year, during the lockdown. The state of mental healthcare is critical in rural India as there is a scarcity of mental healthcare infrastructure that further deepens the stigma surrounding mental illness.
With the lack of mental healthcare experts to offer treatment to 150 million, there exists a massive treatment. To address this lacuna, mental healthcare startups have emerged to offer mental health consultations and services using technology.
As per the recent report on mental health in India by NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences), the country has 150 million individuals suffering from mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and learning disabilities, and has a skewed ratio of 3800 psychiatrists,898 clinical psychologists, and 1500 psychiatric nurses against 150 million.
Will tech help in bringing mental wellness?
There exists a skepticism that technology-induced mental healthcare such as chatbots, AI, and SaaS cannot be beneficial to treat mental illness, since for accurate diagnosis, an mental healthcare expert requires a one -to one conversation with an individual to know about his past experiences, past traumas, hobbies, interests, etc. While conversing freely, the individual speaks with a free mind without being judged.
Tech-based mental healthcare startups- a disruption in mental healthcare?
Founded by Kanika Agarwal in 2020, MindPeers is a Delhi-based SaaS startup that offers clinically validated diagnostic tools and personalised wellness plans for the employees of the corporate as well as individuals. Sometimes, workplace pressures lead to tremendous anxiety which goes unnoticed by peers or colleagues. To address such issues MindPeer’s initiative is to spread the consciousness and awareness about mental wellness among HR managers and organisations. Its platform asks the visitors to its site to undergo a test to find out the mental wellness quotient based on which one receives recommendations. Its Mind Coach feature allows patients to seek appointments from therapists either by video calling, phone, or face-to-face. Apart from recommendations and consultation, it has a ‘ Vent out Wall ’ feature’ where the users on its platform can vent their feelings which can be kept anonymous. Since its launch, the startup has signed up 15-plus corporate clients and more than 5,000 individual customers.
Startups are also enabling AI-based chatbots therapists to offer mental healthcare, one such example is Wysa founded by Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati in 2015, that aims to offer mental wellness by helping users to chat with an AI-enabled mental health ‘chatbot therapist’ designed by therapists, coaches, users, and AI experts. On signing with Wysa it asks the visitors to select areas of concern such as anxiety, sleep, exam stress, work stress, relationships, etc. Basis the selection, it creates personalised toolkits inferred from evidence-based self-help techniques from computer-based tests, mindfulness, and life coaching. The chatbots mimic humans and offer solutions no different from an expert, that suggests spiritual meditation, mindfulness audio, and other self-help tools. Wysa’s AI chatbot therapy has benefitted 1.2 million people and is used in 30 countries.
A platform to find Therapist
Therapize India is a platform that connects many clinical psychologists, counsellors, and psychotherapists with the individuals. It is a consolidated database that consists of information about therapists, including details such as their qualifications, work experience, an estimation of the hourly fee, contact number, and the style of therapy they practice.
Every individual’s mental illness stems from various reasons such as past relationships, LGBTQ individuals unable to come out, career problems, domestic abuse, childhood bullying, etc. for which the ‘One size fits all theory does not work. Therapize India through its personalized tool helps individuals find their perfect match of therapists, thus bridging the gap of insufficient resources for mental healthcare in India. Therapize India receives 7500 unique visitors everyday.
For the Startups foraying in mental healthcare
Many corporate companies, as a part of their employee retention strategies, are tying up with various digital mental healthcare startups to offer mental well-being to employees, which will usher in the emergence of mental healthcare startups. The government is taking steps to promise access to mental healthcare to all by 2020 by introducing bills in the National Mental Health Policy bill in Rajya Sabha. Startups offering mental healthcare to rural India will emerge as winners since the remote parts are devoid of mental healthcare access and are shy of speaking up.