QUEEN’S ROAD: A city-based start-up enables people to seek help for mental health problems from the privacy of their homes.
Healtheminds, launched by Ankita Puri and Dr Sunita Maheshwari, helps people deal with stress, depression, trauma, anxiety, OCD and other such conditions.
The website allows users to log in anonymously, choose from the list of experts on the panel and book an appointment for a video chat. “For those uncomfortable with going on camera, there is the option of an audio chat. However, video is preferred as it helps the expert respond to the user’s facial cues,” says Ankita.
The entrepreneur graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and worked as an investment banker in New York, before returning to India to join Teleradiology Solutions in 2010.
The company was co-founded by paediatric cardiologist Sunita in 2002, and deals with the transmission of radiological patient images, such as X-rays, CTs and MRIs, from one location to another.
“The idea stemmed from there. We had patients who did not want to come to the clinic for various reasons, and we diagnosed them anyway. We thought we could start something similar to help people suffering from depression who don’t seek help because of the stigma,” says Sunita.
The Yale-educated medico, however, isn’t part of the expert panel. “I have dealt with many paediatric patients who grew up and faced problems as teenagers. Counselling them is part of my job, but I’m not a trained psychiatrist,” she says. “There are no self-taught experts on the panel.”
Sunita admits you can only go so far with online counselling. “In severe cases, where the patient seems capable of causing bodily harm to themselves or others, we try to get them to go to a brick-and-mortar facility,” she explains.
Healtheminds receives 150-200 calls a day from users across the globe. While the traffic in India comes mainly from the metros, calls from cities in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir are not so rare. Each session lasts between 45 minutes and one hour.
The start-up has partnered with Groupon to offer promotional packages of the services they offer.
“We once had a woman who gifted a package to a friend going though a bad break-up. We also have parents seeking help for their children who refuse to communicate about their problems. Our service is not well-suited for chronic illnesses, but we can certainly help people who feel stuck in life,” Sunita says.