As the mental health crisis in India increases, a host of companies are trying to use technology to provide much-needed counselling services. We spoke to Jannat Behl on her venture BabbleMe, and how quality online therapy can make a difference.
BabbleMe aims to make the struggle with common mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and stress a little easier. They connect you to a therapist suited to your needs online and anonymously. One can use text or audio to express what they feel anytime or use the app or the login to the site.
Depression is used loosely. People don’t know that you need to feel a certain way for 6 weeks – for it to be considered depression.
What was your journey to Babble Me?
I was studying in the UK, and when I came back I was struck by how so many people did not know about mental health. I started researching, and came across a lot of people around me who were suffering from mental health issues. A lot of people didn’t know what mental health is, and were afraid to speak to anyone. They were well-educated, but they still had the outlook that going to a therapist would undermine them. I then started developing this portal.
What about the mental health infrastructure and landscape is the most lacking in India?
In the West when you have to become a doctor, there are certain parameters that you have to go through. For psychology, there is not much regulation, or qualifying parameters. Whereas, in the US and UK you have to practice in a hospital to qualify. But here there are no parameters to test if a therapist knows how to put knowledge to practice. For example, I heard a story about parents of a dyslexic child who had gone to a psychologist in a smaller city. They just wanted their child to live a normal life. The psychologist said that will never be possible, and that they should have another child. How do you expect people who are going through a problem to get through that?
So how do you choose counsellors on your platform?
I have a three-step vetting process. I also conduct a special training on how to speak to people online. In chat therapy things are misunderstood – you can’t sense the tone – you have to understand how to tackle a patient.
What is the future of online counselling?
I think it will pick up. More and more people are going online. Being online removes the problem of stigma, and of being ashamed. In my website you can be anonymous – you can be assured that the psychologists are vetted and are of quality. I do understand the limitations of online counselling, but it is a step towards the process of helping someone suffering.
My platform is a virtual therapy room, not a per session chat.
Is the stigma decreasing?
Yes, I think it is decreasing. But people need a bit of hand holding when they need to go to a therapist. They have started accepting it is a genuine problem.
The most common problem I have seen people face is anxiety. Many people use the terms loosely. Depression is used loosely. People don’t know that you need to feel a certain way for 6 weeks – for it to be considered depression clinically. That is why it is important to educate people about mental health.
Also Read: Online Counselling Apps: What’s The Verdict?