Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, three initiatives working in the field of mental health in India have received an amount of Rs 95 lakh cumulatively from ACT Grants. The three initiatives are Dost Education: Rs 20 lakh; ePsyclinic: Rs 15 lakh; and COVID Response run by Mind Piper: Rs 60 lakh.
Mental health is the next looming crisis in the COVID-19 battle. General anxiety about the situation, financial uncertainty, lack of sleep, feelings of deep isolation, psychosomatic ill health, and domestic violence, have all become more common occurrences with people. ACT has identified this issue and says it will support every scalable idea that can help overcome this crisis.
Here are the three initiatives that will be receiving support:
The pandemic has imposed many hardships on blue collar and migrant families, particularly in relation to their mental well-being due to increased anxiety, stress and aggravation of latent conditions as well as posing novel challenges to child rearing and development. Dost Education is a tech non-profit in the field of child development and wellness. It is a one to many platforms that delivers one-minute long podcasts over phone calls 4 times a week to blue collar families, via partnerships with prominent NGOs. These âphonecastsâ contain both informative content as well as suggestions for activities and behaviours that can be adopted.
Sindhuja Jeyabal, Founder of Dost Education says, "With ACTâs support, Dost Education is already supporting 50,000 families across four states with timely mental health audio podcasts over phone calls. We have received an overwhelming response from listeners who solely rely on our phone calls for credible information on practices and resources to handle stress at home. We are keen to partner with more non-profits and state governments to reach more families in the coming months.â
This platform focuses towards helping startups, healthcare professionals, frontline workers, women in abusive environment and blue collared workers in distress due to the pandemic. Epsyclinic is an initiative providing 24*7 free therapy and counselling space on call and chat due to distress arising from the pandemic. It connects mental healthcare professionals through a helpline with instant 20-40-minute counselling sessions and connects people for one-on-one therapy sessions through the psychologists for focused crisis counselling.
Shipra Dawar, Founder of ePsyclinic says, "As the COVID crisis began to unfold, we launched a free therapy initiative for frontline workers, women, and seniors, marginalised, the disadvantaged. We are working with Haryana, Karnataka & Rajasthan governments and we have partnered with various startups in India like Swiggy, Zomato, Urban Company, and more to help the delivery partners and their families with crisis counselling. In the last 2 months, we have helped more than 60,000 people with direct call and counselling sessions. We, in our journey of next phase, look to make a positive impact on at least 7 million+ people and provide more than 2,50,000 counselling sessions, all with the support of ACT grants and a team that works tirelessly.â
COVID Response is an initiative managed by Mind Piper that is helping women, children and families from every section of society to deal with the fear about the consequences of the contagion, financial uncertainty, anxiety, insomnia and mental distress. It is also being supported by I AM and Sahay by SOCHARA for over 2-3 months now. This unaddressed crisis can lead to the early and long-term onset of mental health conditions stemming from and not limited to post-traumatic symptoms like sleep disturbance, hopelessness, flashbacks, depression, substance abuse and more. COVID Response trains counsellors in crisis counselling and psychological first-aid and connects them with people who are most vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic for pro bono one-on-one sessions. The pool of psychologists has a collective linguistic base of 22 languages. In the upcoming month, the initiative is geared to scale up to a capacity of reaching out to 30,000 citizens every week through the support of 750+ counsellors and a partnership with Project StepOne.
ACT Grants is a consortium of more than 100 startups and VCs (venture capitalists) from all over the country that was started in April 2020. ACT says it has received more than 1600 applications from across the country and over 100 volunteers are working round the clock to do the due diligence of these applications. ACT is actively looking forward to help Individuals, startups, businesses focused on mental wellbeing and crisis counselling. Along with funding, ACT will also help these initiatives collaborate with various industry experts and NGOs focussed on mental wellness during COVID-19.
Shekar Kirani, Partner at Accel, says, âThe idea of starting a grant originated when some of the current members of ACT noticed a community of tech entrepreneurs, a mix of established firms, startups and newly launched ones exclusively to combat COVID-19, on a Telegram group. We monitored the conversations and saw great potential and innovative pandemic solutions emerging from the startups and entrepreneurs. The conversations were focused on how technology can be leveraged to fight the pandemic and the related aspects of COVID-19. We began to realise the help these ideas would require to actually bring the innovations to life and hence we came up with the grant to provide financial assistance and industry guidance. ACT Grants was established to provide easy and quick access to a formal pool of capital and contribute towards the fight against COVID-19.â