The year was 2015. Arushi Sethi had just graduated and before starting her new job, she accepted an invitation to Nepal from her friend. It would be a much-needed getaway she thought but little did she know that this particular vacation would turn out to be life-changing pushing her to work in the field of mental health.
On 15 April, Arushi reached Kathmandu and a day later, the capital city was struck by the deadliest earthquake in the region in 81 years. The earthquake took close to 9,000 lives and destroyed more than six lakh homes.
“It was a traumatic experience. While I was fortunate enough to get rescued within the first 48 hours of the devastation, there were many who could not get help. For days I was unable to sleep due to palpitations and anxiety disorder and one of the reasons was the insufficient rescue mechanisms,” Arushi, now 25, shares with The Better India.
Arushi was once again fortunate to get the help of her mother, who is a clinical psychologist. But, Arushi couldn’t help but wonder about those survivors who are unable to get the required emotional support.
Arushi’s passion for bringing a change in the dialogue around mental health
Lack of available care to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prompted Arushi to convert a college project into a full-fledged startup Trijog in 2015.
Mumbai-based Trijog works toward eliminating the stigma around mental health problems by providing a range of services like counselling and therapies to everyone irrespective of gender and age.
“I could have sulked due to the tragic experience in Nepal but instead I chose to use that in my favour and help others beat the stigma. It was a very humble start with just two of us working out of home,” says Arushi, who co-founded the startup with her mother, Anureet Sethi, who has an experience of over three decades working with several city-based schools and hospitals.
“We are a nation that is suffering in silence and we do not have enough coping or venting mechanisms that make mental health acceptable. Our primary goal is to provide quality healthcare and help each individual live a life of dignity. Our workspace is very different from conventional clinics and hospitals, it is like a spa,” shares Arushi.
The startup also has a digital arm, where one can avail the services online or via phone call.
So far, it has reached out to millions across the country through events, awareness campaigns and their services. Trijog’s client base boasts of 15,700 who have undergone transformations.
It All Started With A Mother’s Influence
When Arushi had to come up with an ad design project in her final year at Jai Hind College, the topic of mental health was the most obvious choice.
“I have seen my mother helping people overcome stress, anxieties and depression on a daily basis ever since I can remember. Being a professional, she never shied away from telling me about the importance of mental health and how talking about one’s feelings is not a sign of vulnerability,” she shares.
In a world where terms like ‘depression’, ‘sadness’ are casually thrown around and met with responses like ‘it is only in your mind’ or ‘just stay positive, all will be fine’, Arushi grew up in an environment that brought the conversation around mental health in the limelight.
Arushi credits her mother for being an influential force behind the college project. Like every project, this one too had a short shelf life and was forgotten until the Nepal incident took place.
Forming a company from scratch that addresses an issue not widely acknowledged in society was not easy.
“Every startup, whether product-based or service-based is established to cater to a demand in the market. But when it came to our service, there is less awareness and more ignorance in India. Of the millions suffering from mental issues, only a handful come forward to seek help and the rest suffer in silence,” says Arushi’s mother, Anureet.
Another challenge, informs Arushi, was changing the language and culture of the industry.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to call our service as working on emotional wellbeing instead of mental illnesses. We wanted to focus on the cause instead of symptoms. For example, we try to figure out ‘what caused the anger?’ instead of working on resolving the anger.”
Despite the uncertainties and risks, the mother-daughter duo took on the challenge and launched the venture. While Arushi gave up her dream job at Google, Anureet now had more responsibilities.
200 Million Indians Suffer from Depression. How Trijog Is Addressing the Stigma
The USP of the company is its hybrid model both online and offline and its presence in different sectors like corporate and education.
Trijog collaborated with psychologists and mental health experts from across the world to catalogue various remedies tailored for different individuals like children, adolescents and adults.
“After months of research and discussions, we strongly felt the need to extend our services to adolescents and adults as well. With a pressure of making it in life, only one particular age group is affected is a myth that we wanted to end. Unfortunately, parents are so busy that they do not even have time to listen to their own children. From peer pressure, bullying, academic setbacks to gaming, there are several reasons that prompt the child to take the extreme step,” explains Arushi.
Using assessment measures and diagnostics like emotional and behaviour tests, child psychologists break down problems and help them articulate their emotions.
Similar techniques are used by the organisation to help adolescents. As per the World Health Organisation, one in four adolescents suffer from depression.
“Often while transiting from a child to a teenager, an individual cannot deal with all physical, mental and emotional changes. They are tempted towards resorting to intoxicants to deal with the mood swings and often end up with more stress and anxiety. We help make sense of their thoughts and feelings and make them feel safe and secure,” adds Arushi.
Corporate wellness is another important arena that Trijog caters to. Lack of work-life balance coupled with fatigue and spiking stress levels directly affect work performance.
Nearly 42 per cent of employees working in the private sector suffer with a form of mental illness due to long working hours and less pay according to a study by Assocham.
Trijog uses a blend of creative art-based therapy conducting their signature program called ‘Mind Detox’ through mediums of visual art, music, movement and guided imagery.
Its Employee Assistance Programs provide one on one counselling sessions in person and on video call, chat or phone call.
Nikita Manila, HR Business Partner, White Crow Research, says, “Mental wellbeing is a very important and essential part in today’s times. In order to help our employees with their mental wellbeing, we approached Trijog and they have guided us in this process. It has been two years using Trijog’s EAP solutions. They have been a big support in taking care of the emotional wellbeing of our employees.”
Conclusion: Way Forward
The organisation is now working on developing a mobile application where people can avail the services from anywhere in the world. Aligning with corporates and giving their employees a 24/7 access to counselling is another new arena that Trijog is venturing into.
One of the biggest validations of Trijog’s quality work came around recently when Arushi became the youngest member to be appointed on World Federation of Mental Health.
From starting out in the room to now having a strong client base and a staff of 50, Arushi and Anureet have come a long way in beating the odds, establishing a niche for themselves and opening a dialogue on mental health.
All the images are sourced from Trijog.
You can get in touch with Trijog here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)