One in every five Indians suffer from depression in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). While stigma surrounding mental illness still runs rampant in India, a host of start-ups are working on technology solutions to make life better for those suffering from such afflictions.
These startups use a whole gamut of latest technology —from chatbots and deep learning to artificial intelligence (AI) and video chats — to provide the services they do. A few players in the segment providing counseling and support, along with anonymity — a key requirement for many prospective customers — include InnerHour, YourDOST, TrustCircle, Mind.fit, a vertical in Cure.fit, Wysa, GrowthEX and ePsyclinic. These companies use AI and data-based approaches to resolve several mental health issues, and they are seeing significant traction.
InnerHour founders Dr Amit Malik and Dr Shefali Batra say that their app provides counseling and therapy through video and web chats, while also tracking their status across time. Many of these startups provide the first session of counselling or similar offerings for free, and then charge for subsequent sessions.
At InnerHour, the fee for therapy sessions depends on the therapists chosen, with the hourly rates ranging from `650 to `1,500. Mindfit also organises yoga classes for which it charges subscription fees. “We receive around a 1,000 calls per day for interactions with therapists... The most common issues people seek help for are depression, anxiety and relationship issues,” says Malik.
Other wellness firms like Curefit, founded by Myntra co-founder Mukesh Bansal and senior Flipkart executive Ankit Nagori, are also venturing into the mental health segment. Mind.fit, Curefit’s mental health app, offers meditation and other services.
“We have 5,000 people who log in for yoga sessions every day. We provide an integrated model of psychiatry where people can book yoga, pranayama classes and do them at home, or come to Mindfit centers at a location near them and do them under the guidance of our experts. We also provide psychiatric or counseling sessions through video calls,” says Dr Shyam Bhat, mental wellness expert, Curefit.
Other platforms like Wysa and TrustCircle also provide similar services. The former is an AI-based chatbot which response to emotions one expresses and uses methods like cognitive-behavioral techniques (CBT) to build mental resilience skills, while the latter provides affordable and accessible mental health care, with basic screening tests to determine if someone needs professional help.
The popularity of such startups is beginning to lead investors to them. Innerhour received a funding of nearly `3 crore last year from Batlivala and Karani Securities, Venture Works and others. The company is now in talks to receive more funding early next year. YourDOST, meanwhile, raised $1.2 million in 2016, while Wysa raised $1.3 million in seed funding from Kae Capital and Angel Investors last year.
Stigma holds back treatment
While stigma surrounding mental health is declining, self imposed stigma is taking a little longer to fade away. “Though people are opening up, it will take a long time to normalize mental health issues,” notes Malik.