Breaking the silence: these 5 women-led startups are tackling mental health issues in India
India has one of the largest populations suffering from at least one form of mental illness. According to research by the World Health Organization, economic loss in India due to mental health conditions between 2012 and 2030 will amount to an estimated $1.3 trillion dollars.
Despite these staggering numbers, there is a lot of stigma attached to mental health in India. To alleviate the issue, these women entrepreneurs are running startups that help people come out and face their struggles with mental health, without any stigma attached.
Shipra Dawar, Jo Aggarwal, Anureet and Arushi Sethi, and Richa Singh
Shipra Dawar, ePsyClinic
Founded in 2015 by Shipra Dawar, ePsyClinic connects individuals to mental health professionals both online and offline. Based in Gurgaon, the company started out by setting up pop-up clinics in malls and corporate offices, encouraging people to speak up about mental health issues.
In 2017, ePsyClinic launched its app - IWill - through which users have access to more than 45 in-house therapists and counsellors, and over a thousand through extended networks. So far, the startup has facilitated more than one lakh sessions offline, and over 3,500 through its app.
In an earlier interview with YourStory, Shipra said,
"There is no doubt that there is stigma, but more than that there is also a sense of cynicism and lack of clarity in people about the success rate of mental health services. We have to do a lot of work as a country to educate people about how just ‘talking’ would help. The concept of therapy is not understood yet."
The IWill app is available on Android and iOS.
Jo Aggarwal, Wysa
Wysa, co-founded by Jo Aggarwal in 2015, is an AI-enabled mental health chatbot designed by therapists, coaches, users, and AI experts. It gives users an anonymous platform to vent, reflect, and build emotional resistance.
Wysa creates personalised toolkits drawn from evidence based self-help techniques from CBT, mindfulness, and life coaching. It also meets the NHS UK's DCB 0129 Standard of Clinical Safety.
So far, Wysa has featured over 80 million conversations with more than 1.2 million users across 30 countries. The friendly penguin mascot also makes the chatbot more appealing and approachable.
Wysa has raised a total of $3.9 million from three funding rounds. Speaking about the announcement of the latest round of funding, which was in June this year, Jo said,
"What people want most is to feel heard, without judgement. Anonymity is the key – people are scared to be seen or judged for what they are going through. We combine the free AI with unlimited support from a qualified therapist, still anonymously, over chat to make it easy to get help."
The Wysa app is available on Android and iOS.
Anureet and Arushi Sethi, Trijog
Mumbai-based Trijog was founded in 2014 by mother Anureet and daughter Arushi Sethi. Trijog is a mental wellness platform that offers a variety of solutions for every need of clients, institutions, and corporates.
Anureet is a clinical psychologist with over 30 years of experience, and has been fighting the stigma surrounding mental health and helping people better their lives. Drawing inspiration from her mother, Arushi believes that if something is bothering our minds, no matter how small or big the issue, it is important we voice it.
“We are a nation suffering in silence! We all acknowledge that we have problems. But why is it that we are ashamed to talk about them?” she asks.
Trijog started as an assignment in Arushi's final year of college in 2014, for which she was asked to come up with a company idea. Wondering if she could use the opportunity to make an impact, she approached her mother, and together they started Trijog - Know Your Mind Pvt. Ltd.
Trijog is affiliated to the Rehabilitation Council Of India, and is authorised to take care of behavioural, emotional, and learning requirements of children, adolescents, and adults.
Richa Singh, YourDost
Co-founded by Richa Singh in 2014, YourDost is an emotional wellness platform that connects individuals with mental health experts and life coaches from over 15 cities in India. It offers counseling across areas like relationships, career, academics, sexual wellness, and self-improvement.
Through YourDost, users can engage in anonymous online chat sessions with experts of their choice, or opt for voice/video calls with them.
The platform also lists motivational quotes, de-stressing techniques, informative articles, and offers various self-assessment tools to help one understand themselves better.
With investors like Phanindra Sama and SAIF Partners, YourDost has also raised $1.6 million so far.
"With the attention that mental healthcare is able to grab today, from celebrities to investors, we believe we are at an inflection point of the mental healthcare industry," said Richa, in a previous interview with YourStory.
She also believes that technology is a potential contender to make mental health care accessible, especially with factors like anonymity and reach.
Shefali Batra, InnerHour
Co-founded by psychiatrist Shefali Batra in 2016, Mumbai-based InnerHour uses technology to deliver psychological wellness. It provides video-based online therapy and counselling sessions to tackle various areas like depression, stress, anxiety, sleep issues, and anger.
It has a range of mental health professionals that users can consult with, depending on parameters like language, years of experience, cost and others. Users can also opt for a face-to-face option with some of the therapists.
Along with the means to connect with a therapist, the platform also provides sample audio-guided activities like deep breathing, imagery, visualisation, self-compassion, and progressive muscle relaxation.
The InnerHour app works towards self-care, by offering a personalised 28-day plan to combat an individual user’s areas of concern, based on a self-assessment tool. It helps them learn better coping mechanisms through emotional, behavioural, and thought management skills.
The InnerHour app is available on both Android and iOS.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)