InnerHour tackles mental health issues with technology, taking away the fear of stigma and giving access to a choice of trained counselorsBy Aatika H Jain
A recent report by the World Health Organisation states that mental health problems in India are gaining epic proportions and if pertinent measures are not taken in time, it might soon become an epidemic. Dismally, there are merely 0.301 psychiatrists for every 1 lakh people in India. The stigma surrounding mental health makes it difficult for suffering people to speak up and seek help. Entrepreneurs have now come up with apps and online platforms to help people help themselves. These startups are gaining traction not only by providing important information on common mental health issues but several are running helplines and connecting patients with mental health professionals while keeping their identity private, an essential requisite for several clients. One such startup is InnerHour, an online mental wellness portal, which has been trying to bridge the gap between mental healthcare professionals and patients by offering online counseling.
Seeds of Creation
InnerHour was founded by Dr. Amit Malik and Dr. Shefali Batra, psychiatrists with more than 15 years of experience, in February 2016. The duo runs the Mumbai-based venture under the company, MindCrescent Wellness Ventures Pvt. Ltd, which acquired $450,000 in the first round of funding from Batlivala & Karani Securities India Pvt. Ltd, investment firm Venture Works and others. InnerHour hopes to empower people with the ability to improve their overall mental wellbeing so that they can lead a healthier and more satisfying life by offering them easily accessible comprehensive therapy and consultation anytime, anywhere. InnerHour boasts of expert psychologists and an experienced professional healthcare management team. The online portal promises complete confidentiality between the patient and the therapist through encrypted conversations. “Tech confers a degree of anonymity, so those worried about stigma feel more confident in seeking support. With technology and innovation, one can get access to better services and products from anywhere in the country. We are very heavily focused on creating content and programs around mental health and our plan is to also create anonymized communities where people can get peer support,” states Dr Malik.
Mental Wellness App
Inner Hour has also launched a free, self help mobile app which has a repository of expert advice from experienced mental healthcare experts. The main aim of the app is to offer personalized solutions to issues that apparently seem like an unsolvable deadlock. “It asks a bunch of questions and then creates a 28-day program with various 5-minute activities for the individual to work on each day,” explains Dr. Malik. “This is to help them develop emotional skills if they can’t see a therapist.” “I love this app. It not only tracks your mood every day with an easy-to-read graph, but it also has a good selection of guided relaxation techniques. It has 6 different courses to manage your stress, anger, worry and more. When you’re having a difficult time and you just need someone to talk to, you can either talk to Allie and she will give you advice, or you can talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist with the push of a button,” says an app user. The app, which has tools for an immediate reprieve from any kind of anger and stress, has had nearly 4 lakh downloads in the last year. Integration of AI with the app is on the cards, to increase personalization. In severe cases, InnerHour recommends seeing one of its therapists or suggests one. The app offers online counseling and paid therapy and keeps track of their status over a period of time. The fee for the therapy session depends on the therapists chosen by the user.
Employee Wellness Programmed
InnerHour also offers an employee wellness program for corporate employers with the InnerHour mobile app at its core. It provides in-depth reviews to assess the organization’s emotional wellness, which comprises the diagnostic part of the program. There is also a live bot which pops up every other week to ask 2-3 questions to get an idea of the current emotional wellness of the organization at a particular time, say during the appraisal period. It designs tailored self-help programs for employees struggling with emotional problems and also draws customized action plans comprising workshops, webinars, and individual employee coaching sessions. There is also one-on-one support for employees from mental healthcare experts if needed. “We looked at the current traditional employee assistance programs and realized that it is utilized by only 1-2 percent of the employees. So we structured a program to overcome these barriers of employee’s self-stigmatization and now we see an increase to 12-16 percent”, says Dr. Malik. “We don’t share individual employee data with the employers. Only the employees get confidential personalized reports.”
“We started India-focused; now almost half of our users are from outside India,” says Dr. Malik. In the coming years, InnerHour aims to add several new dimensions to the app. “There is a high level of psychological morbidity in people with chronic diseases. We’re going to start looking at psychological wellness programs for people with chronic disease such as cancer and diabetes,” says Dr. Malik. He aims to incorporate regional language options and extend the app to different parts of the health spectrum encompassing different lifestyles and their challenges.