Social stigma is a major obstacle in the fight to address India’s mental health crisis.
According to a study published by The Live, Love, Laugh Foundation, 60% of people living in India believe that mental illnesses are caused by a lack of self-discipline. Two thirds of the Indian population also believe that people suffering from a mental health condition should be separated from mainstream society, to stop them from “contaminating healthy people”.
The study published by The Live, Love, Laugh Foundation also found that most respondents associated the phrase “mental illness” with severe conditions - like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder - rather than the moderate to mild disorders that affect approximately 75 million people currently living in India.
This combination of stigma and limited awareness encourages people to ignore the early signs of mental illness. It also prevents people from seeking help when they do realise that something’s wrong. In fact, only 1 in 5 people with an emotional difficulty actively seek professional help.
When we spoke to Dr. Amit Malik - psychiatrist and founder of InnerHour - he told us that the lack of awareness around mental health conditions, and the rampant stigma in the country, are major obstacles that come in the way of timely intervention.
This is especially concerning, given that 1 in every 10 people living in India suffer from some form of mental illness.
Depression alone is thought to affect between 5-26% of the Indian population, and an article published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry shows that it will account for 5.7% of India’s total disease burden by 2020; second only to ischemic heart disease.
But a census-style study conducted in 2017 shows that only 15% of Indian people suffering from depression actually get treatment.
This is partly because Indian people suffering from conditions like depression, anxiety or stress are often unwilling to come forward and seek treatment. It is also because India spends less than 1% of its total health budget on mental health care.
Spending such a small amount on mental health care means that there are now only 4,000 psychiatrists in the country - or one psychiatrist per 130,000 members of the population - which makes accessing traditional treatment options very challenging.
Fortunately, organisations like InnerHour are stepping in to provide a solution.
What is InnerHour?
Founded in 2016, InnerHour is a health-technology startup that is trying to tackle India’s mental health crisis head-on. The organisation delivers affordable, confidential, and accessible emotional wellness solutions to both individuals and institutions.
One part of InnerHour’s solution is e-therapy. This web-based service helps people to connect with qualified therapists, and access counselling on a secure and confidential platform.
However, InnerHour also offer self-care solutions in the form of an app. This app uses cutting-edge algorithms and intelligent software to build customised, self-care programmes for people.
In doing so, the InnerHour app provides users with easy access to effective treatment, and removes a lot of the barriers that stop people from engaging with traditional options, including 1-on-1 counselling sessions, or group-based therapy.
Amit explains that digital solutions like InnerHour are the answer to India’s mental health crisis.
In fact, he thinks that technology-based solutions can address all of the challenges that have contributed to India’s mental health crisis: including social stigma, lack of awareness, and the limited number of qualified specialists.
More about InnerHour
Initially, InnerHour was launched as a consultation platform; aimed at helping users to book online counselling sessions with a qualified therapist.
Over time, the organisation has broadened the scope of its offering by rolling out newer features and products.
Earlier this year, InnerHour launched a mobile app that is available to both Android and iOS users. Combining the latest evidence in the field of mental health, and the clinical standards endorsed by mental health professionals at InnerHour, this app currently offers 6 programmes for users to choose from.
This includes courses focused on stress, depression, anxiety, and more. Within every course, an initial assessment evaluates how the user is doing.
Based on the results of this test, a personalised 28-day plan is built for each individual user.
Amit and his team have designed and built the app with the aim of having it seamlessly fit into everyday life. The app requires the user to spend just 5 minutes on it each day. And while it is recommended that the app is used on a daily basis for best results, users can take as long as they like to finish their programme - taking the pressure off of those with very hectic lives.
The app took 2 years to build, but in the six months that it has been live, nearly 200,000 people have signed up for a programme.
Amit believes that these users are making good use of the app too, stating that the average user spends around 6 minutes per day engaging with the personalised programmes.
If you are looking for an effective way to improve your emotional wellness, InnerHour might be of interest.
You can access confidential online counselling through the InnerHour website, or access self-care tools via the organisations app, which can be downloaded for free on both the Play Store and the App Store.
InnerHour's consultation services
The InnerHour website allows you to browse, select and book therapists that specialise in a range of mental health problems.
Qualified professionals list themselves on the therapist finder page. You can browse through their profiles in order to view details about their qualifications, number of years in the field, areas of specialisation, and session charges.
You can also view therapists’ ratings as provided by their clients anonymously - allowing you to make a more informed choice when it comes to your therapist.
Once you’ve chosen a therapist, you can read a more detailed bio, and book your first appointment by selecting the date, time and mode (chat, video call or normal telephone call).
The whole process takes just a couple of minutes and can be completed seamlessly.
The platform also offers the option for booking a face-to-face counselling session with a therapist.
The InnerHour app
The InnerHour App is meant to be a self-care product, that can provide you with psychological tools for living a happier and healthier life.
After downloading the app from either the Play Store, or the App Store, you will be asked to select an area of concern that you want to work on. The options include stress, sleep difficulties, anger, depression or anxiety.
If you aren’t experiencing any of these concerns, you can also choose to work on your general emotional wellbeing.
After selecting a course, an initial assessment will evaluate how you’re doing in the selected area of concern, and provide you with an overall result.
Based on your responses, a personalised 28-day plan is built for you. This plan is detailed and structured in a way to ensure that you learn all the skills to deal with your concern effectively. You can access the app and your plan, at any time, and work through it at your own pace.
As part of the daily tasks, you will:
- Engage with interactive tasks and activities that address your concern
- Learn emotional, behavioural, and thought management skills that will allow you to cope better
- Get access to interesting articles related to the programme you have selected
To help you work on your wellbeing in a consistent manner, the app encourages you to set and track goals so you can form healthy habits that will boost your emotional health.
The app also provides a mood tracker that you can access from your dashboard. This tracker allows you to note how you’re feeling, and also offers a log of all your entries.
Over time, you might be able to see patterns in the way you feel, and identify steps you might need to take to improve your mood.
The app also offers a relief box, through which you can access immediate support in times of distress. You will find several relaxation techniques and other strategies that you can use to feel better.
Finally, those who want to connect to a therapist for support can book an online counselling session through the app as well.