Bengaluru: This World Health Day, depression was the focus, and according to the World Health Organisation, over 300 million people across the world people are living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015 and it can no longer be brushed off as not worth talking about.
Though Bengaluru has many counselling centres and emotional wellness clinics, lack of time and the stigma attached to it stops people from approaching for help or even discussing it.
But they need not hide behind closed doors and suffer silently, believe Puneet Manuja and Richa Singh, who have created an online emotional wellness platform, YourDOST.com, where people can seek help whenever wanted. This Bengaluru-based online counselling and emotional wellness vertical has been designed to foster mental health.
What motivated Richa to start the online counselling platform was the loss of her dear friend back in college, who committed suicide thinking that she would not get a placement in any of the companies. It happened despite the college having a proper, functional counselling cell. “Even I was suffering from depression because of the placement stress. I did not know who to reach out to for help,” says 30-year-old Puneet Manuja, co-founder of YourDOST.com. Puneet and Richa started a blog on depression by posting stories shared by psychologists and therapists. The response was big and people reached out for help and commented on the blog. Taking the cue, the duo founded the online platform in December 2014.
“It allows you to get in touch with life coaches, career coaches, psychologists and relationship experts anonymously round the clock. It solves the primary issues of reaching out for help, not being judged and also time and availability. Many a time, people feel low or want to talk at odd hours and it is not possible for them to go to a counselling centre at that time. That is where this platform helps in a big way. You can text and reach out to the coaches anytime," Puneet adds.
There are three parts to the portal: self-help, peer-to-peer community and one-on-one counselling. “The self-help part consists of story assessment tests, which people can simply access and read. This helps them feel secure and not being alone in this struggle," he says. “The core of our platform, however, is the counselling sessions which can be either through text messaging, chatting or video or audio call," he explains. "The one-on-one counselling has 850 experts and the conversations happen anonymously. We conduct around 1,800 counselling sessions every day which shows the number of people, who want to reach out," he says.
Their team concluded a counselling session in the city for 500 Indian Army men on this year’s World Health Day theme ‘Depression: Let's Talk’. It was part of the company’s efforts to help the Army community deal with emotional challenges and depression because of their highly stressful and tough life.
Their main target, however, is the 18-35 age group, which consists of students and working professionals who suffer from various issues. “The main groups that we help with depression are students, working professionals, housewives and entrepreneurs. This is the group that reaches out to us the most,” Puneet says.
They recently conducted a nationwide online survey to understand the mental health scenario. As per the survey, the stigma attached to seeking psychological counselling seems to be a thing of the past as the attitude among the Indian youth towards mental health is changing. 73% of the respondents were of the opinion that it is healthy and normal to seek regular counselling and 54% had no issues in sharing their concerns with a stranger.
Richa sums it up saying, “We're all humans, and to be human is to be vulnerable. We all have our highs and lows. It is important to accept our emotions as they are. Just like when we have a cold or fever, we go to a doctor, similarly, if something is troubling you enough to disrupt your life, it is good to talk it out and seek support whenever required. Depression worsens if you don't take support and festers if you suffer in silence. Be kind to people suffering from depression and try and help if you can. It can happen to anyone, and heals faster if they have a support system.”
Why the blues?
Work related 25%