Mental health, which has been neglected in mainstream media and conversations for a long time in India, is slowly gaining attention and efforts are being taken across sectors.
One such recent initiative is the software developed jointly by The National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (Nimhans) and IIIT-B to strengthen the treatment of patients suffering from mental illness. The software, developed as part of the Karnataka Mental Health Management System, will help health authorities maintain the mental health history of millions of patients, and develop treatments for specific cohorts wherever possible.
Funded by the Karnataka government, the software will be rolled out in government hospitals from April 1, after a month-long pilot in March. Doctors have already been trained to use the software.
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Hospitals will upload the medical records to the platform, and from there, government or private doctors can view these records with the consent of the patient. “We have ensured total protection of privacy and rights of the patient in compliance with the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017,” Dr BN Gangadhar, director of Nimhans, was quoted as saying by ET.
“We have ensured total protection of privacy and rights of the patient in compliance with the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017,” said Gangadhar added. District government hospitals across Karnataka are also running a flagship mental health programme to address the issue of mental health. IIIT-B has also planned an INR 200 Cr proposal to transform public health, which includes the mental health space, with the help of technology.
Startups Addressing Mental Health Needs
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), for every 100K people, 2400 years cumulatively are spent managing mental disability or trauma. In addition to the stigma attached to seeking professional help, there is also a shortage of mental wellness professionals in India, estimated to be around 0.07 clinical professionals per 100K people (as of 2017).
However, efforts are being taken by various mental health startups such as Cure.fit vertical Mind.fit, YourDOST, YourHour, Headspace, InnerHour and more, to reduce the gap. These startups provide easy access to professional help with the use of technology.
For instance, pi Ventures-backed Wysa reinvents self-help with an artificial intelligence-backed conversational bot that uses scripted responses to guide users through disturbing thoughts and stressful situations. Basically, Wysa is a virtual coach that combines empathetic listening with evidence-based therapeutic techniques like CBT, meditation and motivational interviewing. Another Bengaluru-based fitness startup Cure.Fit’s mental wellness vertical Mind.Fit also offers online and offline yoga, meditation and therapy services.
Wysa claims to have over 1.3 Mn users from more than 30 countries, with a majority of them being free users. The app is said to have conducted over 19 Mn conversations and has a 50% month on month customer repeat rate. Further, the company claims to have facilitated over a million breakthroughs, which is an impact equivalent to about 3 Mn hours of in-person therapy.