6 platforms providing free counseling in India
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The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) estimated that 150 million people in India are affected by mental health disorders, as per its 2015-2016 survey. Additionally, the National Mental Health Survey 2016 estimates that less than 30 million are seeking care. At least 13.7% Indians live with mental health issues and 10.6% need active intervention.
Indians are constrained by numerous factors like stigma, accessibility, expense, etc.
Hearteningly, many platforms have begun recognizing the need for free counseling to enable people to overcome these barriers. How does free counseling help?
Move through stigma
India has traditionally looked down on mental health and this stigma prevents many people from seeking help.
Lack of access to care
Many people in India face barriers to accessing mental health care, such as lack of availability of services, financial constraints, and lack of transportation.
Economic burden of mental health issues
Mental health issues can cause a significant economic burden, both for individuals and for society as a whole. The direct and indirect costs of mental health are estimated to cost 4% of the GDP globally. The World Economic Forum expects the costs to touch more US$ 6 trillion globally by 2030. Free counseling services can help reduce this burden by providing early intervention and treatment for mental health concerns.
Need for emotional support in times of crisis
Mental health concerns can be particularly acute in times of crisis, such as during a natural disaster or a pandemic, and emotional support is vital. Providing free counseling services can help people cope with the emotional and psychological impact of such crises.
Here are 6 platforms in India that offer free counseling with the aim of making mental health more accessible.
Shipra Dawar founded ePsyClinic in 2008 with the goal of providing mental health services to people who may not have access to traditional in-person counseling. Her own struggles with depression led her to establish India’s first online mental health platform to help others facing barriers to accessing mental health care, such as stigma, lack of availability, and financial constraints.
This platform was founded by Richa Singh and Puneet Manuja in 2014 with the goal of providing mental health services and emotional support to individuals who may not have access to traditional in-person counseling. Over the past few years, YourDost has supported individuals and worked with corporates to provide counseling.
iCALL initially began as a project of the School of Human Ecology at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), an initiative driven by Dr Sujata Sriram, Dean, School of Human Ecology and Aparna Joshi, Assistant Professor, School of Human Ecology. With funding and infrastructure provided by TISS, iCALL was soon set up with professional counselors managing the helpline.
Aasra is an NGO and a member of Befrienders India. It was founded with the goal of providing counseling and support services to individuals who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings. The organization was founded to address the issue of suicide in India and provide support to individuals and families affected by suicide.
5. Jeevan Aastha
Source: Jeevan Aastha
Jeevan Aastha is part of the Suraksha Setu Society, which is a state-wide initiative in partnership with the police department of Gujarat. Jeevan Aastha was set up with the goal of providing free counseling services for suicide prevention and overall mental health and well-being. The team strives to keep the caller’s identity anonymous and services are available 24/7. All case details are safe with the team of Jeevan Aastha as privacy of all users isgiven utmost importance.
6. Manas Foundation
Source: Manas Foundation
Manas Foundation was founded by a group of mental health professionals in India with the goal of providing free counseling and support services for mental health and emotional well-being. They also provide training and workshops on mental health and well-being, conduct research, form support groups, and spearhead community-based interventions in rural and urban areas. They also work toward creating inclusive communities by raising awareness against gender violence and abuse.
Speaking of inclusion and diversity – There are a number of platforms and organizations in India that provide free counseling and support services for women.
Chief among them is AskSHEROES, a free online counseling service app for women, is part of SHEROES, a platform founded by Sairee Chahal in 2013 focused on providing support and resources for women. The AskSHEROES app provides a safe and anonymous space for women to talk about their mental health and personal issues with trained counselors and experts.
Other options include
- The government-run National Commission for Women (NCW) operates a 24/7 helpline for women in distress, which provides counseling and support services.
- The National Association for the Blind (NAB) operates a helpline for women who are blind or visually impaired, which provides counseling and support services.