AI could be a game-changer in mental health eco-system, says Ariba Khan
Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Started by two Gurugram-based friends Ariba Khan and Piyush Gupta, jumpingMinds (jM) is your everyday app that can help you deal with and even resolve mental health and wellness issues.
Powered by an engaged community, smart AI bot, and self-care tools, the platform provides a safe and anonymous space to people under stress, and make them feel better instantly. “The Google play store rating of 4.4 shows that we are making an impact in the lives of people,” says Khan, adding that the focus on Mental Health in Union Budget 2022 aligns with jM’s approach.
An engineering graduate from IIT Roorkee and an MBA from IIM Bengaluru, Khan is passionate about building jM as the country’s largest Mental Health community. Excerpts from an interview:
When and why did you think of making this app. What was the trigger?
The idea came after the first wave of Covid19. Everyone was going through some level of stress, unprecedented number of people were falling prey to it. Also there seemed no optimal solution. As of now mental healthcare follows a very traditional approach – one has to take an appointment with a specialist and make regular visits for a long period of time. All of this doesn’t gel with today’s generation who wants everything quick; services at the finger tips – we realised that there exists a gap in the market, and we needed to fill it. Also, inherently, as Indians we relate to community better. Friends’ therapy works good for us. Talking to a friend when one is stressed relieves the stress and also gives a new perspective to look at the challenge at hand. We decided to develop this app in October 2020, and it was launched eight months later, in June 2021.
What is your USP?
We are available 24/7 and unlike majority players who are going therapy first, jumpingMinds’ The Friends Therapy adopts a user-first approach to make wellness easy, accessible, and fun along with a heavy focus on advanced technologies, including AI/ML and Big Data, with 3 IPs underway to provide a safe, non-judgemental and delightful experience to our users within seconds. We have consistently seen that 70 per cent of our users feel better after just one conversation. Our key differentiator is our technology. We are safe, smart, personalised & scalable
To which age group do your users belong? And the gender?
Most belong to 18-25 – these people are most stressed since they are in college or fresh out of it so there are career issues, relationship issues, financial issues as well (since most are dependent upon parents) etc. But then we also have users beyond 30. We almost have 50:50 ratio for men and women.
What are the basic issues that people suffer from?
The general issues being mood swings, social anxiety, relationship issues, sexual wellness, career issues. Women have some additional issues as well.
With most being vaccinated now, has the number reduced?
On the contrary we are getting more now. The after-effects of Covid19 are showing. Until now people were waiting for Covid19 to get over. Now that it has there is a different level of anxiety on how to socialise. Then, there are people who lost their jobs and have a lot of financial stress. Many youngsters whose parents lost their jobs or died due to Covid19 are also coming to the app as they are under stress on how to make ends meet, how to deal with their loss.
There is a lot of stigma attached to mental health. How do you deal with that?
Yeah, this stigma was the first challenge we faced. For people to feel better they have to come out and speak about it. The moment you talk about mental health, people reach to the conclusion that it is clinical disorder like schizophrenia. There is an utter lack of awareness about mental health. What people don’t know is that clinical disorders is just 10 per cent of the mental health industry. Remaining 90 per cent are people like you and me, who have non-clinical stress due to having a bad week at work or home, that makes them demotivated. So, awareness becomes very important, after which comes communication. Since our target audience is young, we focus a lot on digital channels and social media. We make these short, focused videos, quick comics that talk about what a person under stress feels – like there is one comic character who says I am not able to work, eat or sleep etc so that people can identify their own issues, and then talk about those with hundreds of other users. So an affected person doesn’t feel alone.
India stands to lose, one trillion dollar
of its economy in the next decade, thanks
to the mental health and wellness issues
Any other activities that you undertake to spread awareness about mental health?
We do workshops with our partners, like recently we did a few with Good Earth, and a few more are in the pipeline. We also do a lot of partnerships with colleges like IIT Delhi, events with students to make them comfortable with the idea of holistic health. But a majority of our efforts are in the digital space as its reach is more.
Don’t you think making people overly dependent on technology is alienating them from real life. We need to have human interactions, especially when it concerns health issues? Right!
We believe, AI in the mental health eco-system could be a game-changer. Using this technology, professionals could sieve through patient charts that includes their behaviour, pattern, history or any such insightful data that can help them take better decisions.
Mental Health still carries a lot of stigma around it, and many people struggle to share their thoughts, express their emotions or feelings directly. Mental Health chatbots offer an opportunity for those who are too inhibited and encourage them to take the first step towards self-care. If implemented well, AI can significantly reduce symptoms before they exaggerate.
What are your future plans?
To spread one billion smiles in the next three years, globally, and making mental health easy, accessible and fun for all. In India, we plan to grow to 10 million users in the next 12-18 months. We plan to explore North American region, as stress is a global issue. And we want to go deeper and deeper into the technology.