Mind Piper: Untangling the ambiguity around mental health for the under-served population of India


How Mind Piper, a New Delhi based social enterprise, is using an integrated framework to address mental health issues for the underserved in India

 

A student from a low-income rural family was anxious about the preparation for the 12th Board examinations. He would stay fixed for hours with books, yet wouldn’t be able to concentrate. His father’s constant rants about his assured under-performance would propel his isolation to the extent that he would either think of quitting studies or have an impending sense of panic drenching down his throat. The struggle for even normal reasoning and memorizing became evident. He started showing erratic eating and sleeping patterns and mostly preferred staying in his room, making his family all the more worried. The family constantly got caught up in arguments that furthered their anguish.

Today, a few months later, the boy who thought that he will go over the edge, braced himself for his examinations and has successfully completed all papers; meanwhile the Father who used to consider performance as paramount for survival has given the liberty to his child to just learn and enjoy the process of his education and not worry about his marks.

If your mind is constantly trying to figure out this paradox, the story from hereon might make it easy.

Mind Piper, a New Delhi based organisation, works towards raising awareness and creating a community that understands and responds to mental health concerns more compassionately. The family of the boy came to Mind Piper, seeking help. They wanted their son to feel better and happy, and not be excessively stressed about performance. This change was a consequence of a series of family therapy sessions. The interaction with the mental health professionals gave them a chance to pause, a space to express and reflect over their difficulties and to be compassionate when it was required the most.

An artwork depicting the process of therapy. It shows the journey of fellow travellers - moving from the first stage of offering/seeking help, to that of evolving and growing, and finally leading to self-sustainability | Image courtsey : Mind Piper
An artwork depicting the process of therapy. It shows the journey of fellow travellers – moving from the first stage of offering/seeking help, to that of evolving and growing, and finally leading to self-sustainability | Image courtsey : Mind Piper

This was a change Siddhant Khurana, co-founder of Mind Piper, wanted to create. “Mind Piper is trying to change how mental health is seen and talked about in India. We are also trying to bring in community-driven as well as technological interventions to augment this process of understanding and acceptance.” he says as he recalls mental health was an issue he wanted to do something about since his school days.

Born in a family of engineers and doctors, there was very little he could change in his educational trail. His time at the University of Pune got him experimenting with Data Analytics and how data can provide evidence for policy level changes. His proposed model brought him many accolades and an entrepreneurial award that even landed him a good job. But, Siddhant had something else in his mind. He moved to Delhi shortly after his graduation and kept working independently on a few projects until he met the co-founder of Intellisoft Technologies, Mr Rajiv Aggarwal. It was in the conversations with him that he discovered synergies which would eventually script the inception of Mind Piper.

 

After a thorough research, he figured out that 12.5% of India’s population suffers from various mental health issues. Out of those only 10% get the concerned medical help. Even amongst those who seek help there is a high dropout rate – as high as 90% – after the first few therapy sessions. Thus, the importance of identification and implementing solutions for mental health issues floats up evidently.

Siddhant along with Dr. Basir, another co-founder with a 26 years of experience in psychiatry, started working on a framework for the organization which would traverse psychology, psychiatry and bioinformatics to bring a holistic service for the clients. The services include therapy, medication, counselling and home visits at a very nominal price of Rs. 350 per session, as opposed to the prevalent market charge of Rs. 1000 per session. This is further subsidized for people from lower economic background to Rs. 250 per session. A necessity to involve the caretakers of the people with mental health concerns was also identified. Any caregiver holds a significant involvement in the improvement of the conditions of the clients. This is because the client would go back to the same environment, experience the same set of triggers, and the societal behaviours would continue to be the same. The idea of having a setup that integrates all of this to bring up the change was born then.

Using traditional games with a twist for mental health awareness in Daryaganj | Image courtsey : Mind Piper
Using traditional games with a twist for mental health awareness in Daryaganj | Image courtsey : Mind Piper

Alongside this, came the need of a mobile app that can help the therapist have a real time data and do the required analysis and monitoring. Siddhant cites the case of a Lady who was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with contamination fear, she used to spend ⅓ of her days’ time in bathing, washing and cleaning herself. Although the patient could perform her daily tasks without being affected, this disorder disturbed her productive hours enormously. After a series of ERP (Exposure Response Prevention) therapy, she has now got it down to 35-40 minutes.

To enable more conversations in college spaces, they addressed the issue of stereotyping and judgement through a stranger challenge where students experienced blindfolded conversations to look at the walls one builds around oneself. | Image courtesy: Mind Piper
To enable more conversations in college spaces, they addressed the issue of stereotyping and judgement through a stranger challenge where students experienced blindfolded conversations to look at the walls one builds around oneself. | Image courtesy: Mind Piper

As a part of their community outreach, Mind Piper is also flagging a fellowship program of its own called the “Qafila Fellowship” in which they bring together students from in and outside of Daryaganj, New Delhi, to discuss and come up with mental health interventions. They have also initiated outreach programs to increase mental advocacy in Delhi and to sensitize college students about mental health. So far they have teamed up with 10-15 colleges and have received positive responses. The idea is to incorporate enjoyment and engagement in their advocacy to make the process meaningful for the participants.

“There is a dire need to untangle and simplify the concept of mental health. Unless that is done people will never understand; let alone accept it” says Rashi, Innovation Manager – Psychology at Mind Piper, she also emphasizes the necessity of keeping a client centric service – a core philosophy of Mind Piper – augmented with technology.

Rashi also mentions how the association with Pravah and Commutiny- The Youth Collective for the Changelooms Learning and Leadership Journey – supported by Oracle – has helped the organization evolve. “Changelooms was very accurately placed in our organization’s timeline. The tools that we got in this journey helped us map out the resources and plans in the best possible way. Personally, Changelooms brought to me a reflective phase, which enriched my learning and showcased my limitations, or what could be done better”, she says.

Pravah and Commutiny– The Youth Collective have been designing and implementing Changelooms– A Learning and Leadership Journey for early stage young social entrepreneurs since 2005.

“Changelooms happened at an opportune time for me. I was always focussed towards a better model. This journey taught me the importance of how youth can become an integral part of this model. It gave me a clarity on how to design sessions, last six months have really helped become sharper in terms of business acumen, imbibing in me a skill to view things from different vantage points.” adds Siddhant.

They use different art forms like poetry to open the door for meaningful reflections. One of the most beautiful things about tehir workshops is connecting people through their life stories
They use different art forms like poetry to open the door for meaningful reflections. One of the most beautiful things about their workshops is how people connect with each other through their life stories

Till date, the team of 8 members including the 3 co-founders have directly interacted with about 3000 people and have impacted around 6000 people through their activities. Mind Piper has also been incubated at ACIIE, Ambedkar University Delhi- supported by Govt. of NCT of Delhi. Currently, the organisation is focussing on critical partnerships to build products with necessary tech-interventions that can address mental health problems.

All these plans converge to create a setup that would have a personal, empathetic approach to a client’s problems. “We keep the person at the fulcrum, like everything we do should do something worthwhile in the life of the client we have worked with” says Rashi. This statement aptly completes a full circle around the core philosophy of Mind Piper and the mental health field– personalized care for every client based on their needs and doing whatever it takes to make the life of a human being, more fulfilling.

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