This entrepreneur couple started TheMindClan when mental health seemed all talk, little care
A friend of Shweta Srinivasan, who identifies as queer, could not find a therapist they could talk openly to about their identity and how it may have impacted their mental well-being.
Another woman had told her therapist about going through abortion only to get judged and never open up again.
Shweta, who is also a professional therapist, had come across one too many cases of mental health professionals coming with judgements that do more harm to people than offering collaborative solutions they come to seek.
In 2018, she decided to take matters into her own hands and teamed up with her partner Mani Kumar to found TheMindClan, a platform to access the right mental healthcare resources.
The goal is to ensure the “questioning of choices, blaming, and passing moral judgement on people and their experiences do not enter the therapy room” so that those seeking help can be on the path to healing.
Despite rising awareness of mental wellbeing, Shweta noted that the public discussion rarely moved beyond acknowledging the importance of mental health, fewer so around how to access mental health care and find the right therapist that works or other resources.
“These were the unanswered questions in the mainstream and that is what really inspired us to create a reliable platform like TheMindClan.com to provide Indians the access to inclusive mental healthcare support,” she says.
Shweta Srinivasan and Mani Kumar, co-founders of TheMindClan.com
Mental healthcare for all
Based in Mumbai, the platform operates as an aggregator and curates therapists, support groups, workshops, helplines, and shares the stories of people working on their mental well-being.
“We carefully select the therapists we invite to be on the platform. Because of our experiences in the past, we really take care and go beyond the professional details like degree and years of experience,” Shweta says.
The couple looks at peer referral and interacts with the therapists to learn about their values, ethics, and stance on mental health to create a reliable, judgement-free network of professionals.
“We want people to be able to open to therapists because one cannot discuss mental health in isolation from factors like intersectional gender, sexual identity, caste, all of which make us vulnerable to discrimination and experience lack of acceptance that needs to be talked during therapy,” she explains, adding that a master’s degree does not guarantee any of those.
It now has a network of over 35 therapists, more than support groups and five active helplines, all of which can be accessed online.
While crowdsourcing was one way to increase the reach, the platform avoided it and stuck to personally understanding the therapists and support groups to ensure the values are not compromised.
Having started by listing just therapies, it went further to look for support groups and other resources as most people cannot afford therapy.
At present, over 1,000 users have access to the resources available on the platform every month. It has been looking to list more resources to meet the rising needs amidst the pandemic for the past year.
While the community platform neither offers its own services nor owns the listed resources, it also does not charge commissions to therapists and third parties, which leads to funding becoming a challenge.
Bootstrapped so far, the initial investment from their own pockets would go to fund the server and other tech-related costs. However, Shweta says a lot of time and labour went into sourcing and onboarding the resources as well as creating content.
In addition to receiving grant awards, it started forging B2B associations as a revenue stream by offering workshops and policy consultations to like-minded corporate companies like YouTube India, Verizon Media, and DHL, among others.
“The money gets reinvested into the platform so that it remains free and accessible to all. We do not want to charge users, therapists, or support groups because our mission, at the end of the day, is to make mental healthcare available to every Indian,” she says.
Moving ahead, It hopes to become a one-stop platform for all inclusive mental health care resources, catering to Indians of all identities by growing the trusted network of support groups and mental healthcare professionals.
The platform plans to launch more allied mental health products and services “to restore agency of choice in mental healthcare back to the people”.
Although TheMindClan.com is not keen on monetising the platform, some of its peers in the mental health space include Wysa, InnerHour, Trijog, ePsyclinic, and YourDOST, among others.
Helping others heal
Shweta came close to realising mental health as a health concern when she was in the eighth grade as a close family member was dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It was also then that she longed to understand it further and eventually set her on the path of becoming a therapist.
While running TheMindClan.com, she says grappling with her identity as an entrepreneur has been the first challenge.
“As a woman coming from a middle-class upbringing, I haven't been taught how to lead or that I can take a company by its horns and grow it to have an impact on people,” she says, adding that having Mani, an entrepreneur at heart and a mental health advocate, as a partner helped.
Till late 2019 and early 2020, she began coming to terms with her identity of being an entrepreneur, which made the journey much easier.
Shweta speaks from her experience that nearly everyone will have an opinion on what should be done and what needed to be avoided.
“It took me a long time to discover my internal compass of what's important to me. I would encourage all ciswomen, trans women, and gender non-conforming folks to find that internal compass for themselves. Learn to take every moment of doubt and skepticism by others as an invitation to listen to your own gut feeling,” she advises.
To those intimidated by the idea of entrepreneurship, she suggests, “Start from the smallest, most intentional thing you care about and feel connected to. Build from there.”
(Edited by Megha Reddy)