Mental health is an issue largely ignored until a few decades ago, but with the spread of the Internet and popularity of apps, it is now easier for people who are victims of mental stress and illness to come out and talk about it openly. It is possible to maintain anonymity in the virtual world, making it easier for such people to speak up, instead of bottling up their emotions.
Shipra Dawar, Founder and CEO of epsyclinic.com, started the online emotional and mental well-being clinic when she felt the need for a fully-integrated platform offering mental health services with increased accessibility, which she thought only the online medium could provide.
Cutting down on the serpentine queues outside psychiatric clinics, putting the patient at ease, and letting them reach out for help from any place were the other advantages of such Internet offerings.
She started off her first ever venture just over three months ago and has been overwhelmed by the response the online clinic has been receiving. With visitors not only from all across the country but also from countries such as Sweden, Hong Kong and the US, epsyclinic is now providing its services globally.
“My main motive is to de-stigmatise mental illness and make it an issue more widely discussed. About 50 per cent of people go through mental stress but do not talk about it,” Dawar said.
Each of the 50 psychologists and therapists on board undergo a four to six week formal training before they deal with the patients online. The clinic works in a four-step process. The first session for every patient is free of cost and assessment-driven, following which a plan for further sessions is laid out and an online planner or a thought diary and exercises are shared with the patient.
After the first session, patients can choose their counsellor based on their profiles put up on the website and book appointments as per their availability and varied fee structures.
“At e-psyclinic, we see a diverse bunch of patients each day between the age of 18 and 60, openly and comfortably discussing various issues, be it familial, personal or work-related stress. The predominant group seems to be men between the age of 25-40," she adds. The clinic provides services in 12 special areas, such as effective parenting, addiction, sexuality, lifestyle, and childhood and adolescence.
The beauty of a virtual clinic is that the patients can feel free to text, audio call or video chat with the counsellor or therapist at their convenience. Asked if the doctors and therapists on board also prescribe drugs to the patients, Dawar said they do, and: “In some cases where the patient really needs medication, we have also delivered the medicines to them in small batches”.
“I wanted this to be a very positive-outcome driven healthcare delivery which I have luckily managed so far. As my attempts continue to keep this approach consistent, I hope people will now be less hesitant to discuss their problems”, Dawar said.
She also said that a virtual clinic, so far the first in the world, had been set up earlier this week at Delhi’s Saket Select Citywalk Mall for live demonstration. Anyone can walk into the clinic, which has two consultation rooms, and experience a free session managed by e-psyclinic doctors and therapists. The clinic will also be used to conduct special awareness workshops.
As more and more start-ups pop into the Indian medical and health space, Dawar’s e-psyclinic, which is aimed at building normalcy around mental health issues, is not looking at raising funds from investors any soon.