The Covid 19 pandemics have exposed the deep vulnerabilities and inherent gaps of India's healthcare system. The outbreak of covid 19 poised both a challenge and an opportunity for Indian healthcare startups. Despite several inherent challenges, startups promptly engage themselves and develop solutions for the COVID-19 applications in the areas of prevention, detection, disruption, management, and operational efficacy, and have provided innovations in medical goods and services. Also, we at Medicircle present to you the Healthcare Startup Series wherein we are interviewing the healthcare startups which have shined through in this pandemic.
Sweta Bothra is the therapist of InnerHour. She specializes in Cognitive and Behavioural therapy for adolescents and adults across numerous conditions; viz, anxiety, depression, adjustment problems, relationship, and personality difficulties. In this field, she has accumulated 8 years of experience. InnerHour is a tech-led venture that is doing good for the mental health space. InnerHour is filling the void of scarce mental health practitioners found in India.
Mental Health Issues of Indians
She starts, "The issue of mental health, especially since Covid, has come to the forefront. Mental health issues have existed for a long time. The profession of any healthcare practitioner is time-consuming. Spending hours in hospital especially during emergencies will naturally give rise to stress. For the last 1.5 years, we have observed our frontline workers go through mental health challenges. A recent study claims 61% of our frontline workers face mental health issues. Their working hours have increased because of Covid. They are worried about their health, their family's health, and the patient's health. If one adds all these worries over a period of time, we see many experiencing stress and burnout. I have personally seen some frontline workers struggle with OCD and anxiety. This can affect any person's physical and mental health."
Importance of Good Mental Health of Doctors
Elaborating on its importance, "We see instances where people have not received enough sleep and hence become snappy and irritated. Our attention span goes down. Such effects one sleepless night has on our mood, so imagine the result of 1.5 years on a person constantly going through this."
Moreover, "We can now see compassion fatigue, where prolonged stressful periods make one unable to deal with patients effectively. So mental health is important because if kept unchecked it causes severe consequences on one's work and relationships. If a healthcare worker doesn't receive adequate sleep it would affect their motivation and attention towards taking care of the patient. Therefore we must prioritize mental health."
DALY in India
On Disability-adjusted life years, she explains, "If I'm not well, physically, mentally or emotionally, I wouldn't be able to use my skill set. Because of this disability, I cannot contribute economically and hence create a burden. So there will be a loss of x number of years which we term as Disability-adjusted life years. This affects one's quality of life and even life expectancy. It also shoots up one's probability of getting mental or physical issues."
She says, "Our healthcare workers are overworked. On a personal level, we should decrease their workload. This can be done by us by taking care of the basics like wearing a mask, not going out unless necessary and by following WHO guidelines. We should also normalize that healthcare withered to be humans. They have lost lives and seen more pain, so we should understand their concerns. We should communicate with them regarding this. At an administrative level, we should have inclusive policies, sensible work hours and respectful pay. Psycho-socio support should be given at an administrative and social level. There should be community support where they can share their pains and stories."
Social Stigma Attached to Mental Health
She adds, "I've been practicing for so many years and every time I ask my clients why they haven't heard it before, the answer is always - People won't understand. Since 2016, InnerHour is providing online confidential therapy. We carefully select our therapists. After Covid, we have seen more demand on our platform. For healthcare workers, we have partnered with Godrej for 'Mind Care+'. In Mind Care+, healthcare workers will receive confidential and evidence-based therapy. To receive this one can approach InnerHour and get a safe place to share their problems. We have even launched short courses for frontline workers on our self-care app. If they are running low on time then they can access such short courses and programs to get relief. We have partnered with many platforms to create content that can help create awareness on the mental health of healthcare workers."
How to Avoid Stress While WFH
She tells, "The pandemic has caused many to feel lonely and anxious. The small step that all of us should follow is to stick to a routine. People are finding it difficult to maintain a routine, as we eat and we work in the same space. If possible create designated places like a workspace. Try including physical activity. If such movements are done regularly it increases endorphins that lift one's mood. Also, try to include breaks as prolonged-time decreases productivity. Fill your life with things you derive joy from, 5 - 10 mins too would work. Spend your time with your loved ones. If you can't physically meet them then connect with them via technology. Pay close attention to your thinking pattern. Don't hold a negative mindset."
(Edited by Priyal Shah)
Contributed by: Sweta Bothra, lead therapist of InnerHour