6 startups are ensuring access to mental healthcare using tech
The pandemic-induced lockdowns were a tough time for many, as being confined indoors led to an aggravation of mental health issues in the form of loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression, and grief. According to a study by The Lancet medical journal, the COVID-19 pandemic led to 25.6 percent and 27.6 percent rise in the cases of anxiety and depression.
Taking note, Union Budget 2022 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1 announced the launch of the National Tele-Mental Health programme, aimed at providing access to quality mental health counselling and care services across the country.
The programme entails establishing 23 tele-mental health centres, with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru serving as the nodal centre.
The announcement came as a ray of hope for many startups operating in this space, as many founders of tech-enabled healthcare companies earlier told YourStory that it was a good step towards increasing awareness.
To alleviate mental health issues, YourStory has curated a list of six startups that have been helping people deal with their mental health struggles without shame.
Founded in 2015 by Jo Aggarwal and Ramakant Vempati, Bengaluru-basedoffers AI-driven mental health support available to both individuals and through employer benefits programmes. The startup helps in dealing with stress, depression, and anxiety with the help of an “emotionally intelligent” bot that uses evidence-based cognitive-behavioural techniques (CBT), meditation, breathing and mindfulness exercises, as well as micro-actions, to help users build mental resilience.
For employers, Wysa offers a workplace solution that caters to the full spectrum of mental health needs. This solution embeds into existing company benefits such as employee assistance programmes (EAP) or external healthcare provider networks and can be customised according to geography or cohort.
To date, Wysa claims to have impacted 10 million lives, with 3.5 million being active users. The startup has raised a total of around $10 million in funding.
Its app is available for both Android and iOS users, and has users in over 65 countries.
Started in December 2020 by Anumeha and Aviral Pandey, Bengaluru-based AUMHUM is a vernacular mental wellness startup that helps working professionals focus, relax, and navigate the uncertainties of their work lives.
With more than half of its user base outside India, the startup offers an app for both Android and iOS users. Available in 30 languages including Hindi, Kannada, Marathi, Tamil, Russian and Spanish, the app claims to have helped working professionals across the country and the world deal with the anxieties of remote working by partnering with doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, individuals, and institutional mentors, including meditation institutes and yoga schools.
Aviral Pandey, Co-founder and CEO, AUMHUM, says,
"Nobody has the bandwidth to treat mental wellness as a separate thing to focus on. Your everyday things have to be made more mental wellness driven. We are doing just that for you."
AUMHUM is a subscription service with more than 270,000 users across India, Russia, Europe and the US, enabled through partnerships with 120 expert institutes and individuals. It offers subscription plans for individuals (Rs 1,499 per year) and companies. The startup’s medical board consists of mental health expert doctors from India, Australia, and the US. It has also completed its undisclosed amount of seed funding round.
Work in Progress
Started in August 2020 by counselling psychologist Medha Saharya, Delhi-based Work in Progress is a mental health support startup.
“We host nominally-priced weekly events on topics of mental health and wellness. The themes are positive mental health topics such as resilience, self-care, identity etc – every month has a new theme. We keep the group size small, with maximum of eight to 10 people. We provide a safe space for all to share their lived experiences and personal narratives,” says Founder Medha.
“Our conversations have music, art, game-based activities as a form of expression and reflection in our ‘community events’. The duration is 90 minutes, and the sessions are conducted over Zoom. Once a month, we host an ‘open mic’ wherein people are free to share any form of art and self-expression such as poetry, mandala art, improv, playing an instrument or sharing a story,” she adds.
Open mics are priced as ‘pay-as-you-can’ with no minimum entry free. “We also host ‘Grounding Circles’ where we invite psychologists to facilitate short relaxation exercises to help people unburden and relax their mind and body at the end of a long day. We also have community-curated Spotify playlists open to all,” Medha says.
The bootstrapped startup targets people between the ages of 20 and 50. It claims to have hosted 300+ people in its events.
The firm says it’s hosting online events for people across India, Singapore, the UAE, Nepal, the UK, and South Korea. Also, offline events are planned to be held in Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, and Mumbai.
“Users register for community events, paying between Rs 300 and Rs 500 for a 90-minute session. Some events are priced ‘pay-as-you-can’. Also, we offer discounts for students,” says Medha.
Going forward, the startup is planning to host offline events in more cities like Hyderabad, Chennai, and Kolkata, among others. While also continuing to invite other psychologists for collaborations, it is also collaborating with yoga practitioners, fitness coaches, doctors, and dancers etc to bring sessions on different domains of health and wellness.
Launched in 2018 by Nitin Bindlish, Gurugram-based Mom’s Belief is an innovation and research-driven holistic care provider for children who have emotional intelligence and developmental needs. The startup also supports parents, professionals, and caregivers of children with special needs like autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down syndrome, learning disability, intellectual disability, or any other developmental delay.
Mom’s Belief, which also operates in Singapore, aims to touch and improve the lives of more than one million children in the next 10 years.
Over 20,000 mothers have been enrolled by the startup so far, with 100+ integrated centres across India. The startup has a team of 750+ professionals.
The 750+ member team says all its programmes and interventions have been devised keeping in mind the emotional intelligence and health of all children (regular and special needs) between the age group of two to 17 years.
Founded in 2020 by Anita Belani, Amit Bose, Roma Kumar and Lina Bilkha, Mumbai-based Emotionally focuses on online therapy, counselling, coaching, and emotional health training.
"The mental health pandemic is what we have to worry about going forward. The fear, stigma and apprehension associated with these issues have resulted in many impacted individuals not getting the support they need. Emotionally was created so that we could provide access to quality mental health services in a structured manner," says co-founder Anita.
The startup claims that it has helped over 15,000 individuals through its services and has multiple marquee companies as its clients.
Emotionally currently has a team of 40 doctors. The team consists of psychologists, psychiatrists, coaches, counsellors, and veteran business and technology leaders. It serves corporates, individuals, schools, colleges, and other organisations.
“We plan to launch an app-based solution which is holistic but has emotional health support at the foundation,” Anita adds.
Founded in August 2021 by Krishna Veer Singh and Tarun Gupta, Lissun is an Android app-based mental health startup.
The Gurugram-based startup envisions providing psychological support to people in all aspects of their daily lives. It also wants to work in the direction of removing stigma and lack of awareness among people.
It provides services like managing emotions, counselling and therapy, mental healthcare post-COVID-19, meditation, stress reduction, IVF counselling and therapy, support for cancer patients, and women's mental health support with the help of its team of psychologists and psychiatrists.
The platform offers self-diagnosis through tech tools and then provides the necessary treatment to patients.
Currently, the brand claims to conduct 20 to 50 therapies per week and aims to extend that to 1,000 therapies per month in this fiscal.