We all live in this ‘what if’ world and with so much going around us, it’s our mind and mental health that is at stake
Meet Richa Singh, CEO of YourDOST — India’s largest emotional wellness platform
Richa Singh is an IIT Guwahati alumnus with a specialization in User Experience Design. Post that, she led product development in Webfluenz for 3 years (ranked among the top 15 social media analytics tools). She is a thinker as well as a story-lover. She enjoys painting, drawing, dancing, and traveling.
Richa has been felicitated with several rewards and recognitions — Forbes 30 Under 30 India & Asia, Top 15 people of 2015 by Economic Times, Women of Worth by NDTV and L’Oreal, INK Fellowship, Women Entrepreneurs Quest 2016 awardee by Anita Borg Institute and Govt. of India, and Digital Women Award for Social Impact by SheThePeople!
What is YourDOST and what does it mean?
YourDOST was launched in 2014 as an online emotional wellness platform that provides access to experts (professional psychologists & coaches) and self-help tools (personality tests, learning modules, motivational stories, and psychoeducational content). With 900+ experts on the platform, users can reach out to them 24x7, for guidance related to anxiety, relationships, career, academics, sexual wellness, self-improvement, and more. The key aspect of this product is that people are kept completely anonymous throughout the platform.
Today, YourDOST has grown to become more than just a professional help platform. In our mission to make a holistic difference in this country and the world, we are now a holistic emotional wellness organization working with corporates, educational institutions, incubators, and government agencies to help them take care of their communities’ emotional wellness. We work with them through awareness modules, self-help tools, 1on1 counseling intervention, and organization-level diagnostic and reporting.
The name “YourDOST” itself is a reflection of who we are. Given the stigma around this, we did not want ourselves to be bracketed as a clinic or a psychiatric hospital. So, we chose the word DOST. “Dost” in Hindi means friend and that’s exactly what we are, your expert friend who will stand by you in your time of need, a confidante who will hear you, support you, and give you expert guidance minus any judgment.
What inspired you to create YourDOST? Tell us how the idea came about!
The idea behind YourDOST came from our own experiences, mine and my co-founder Puneet’s. During my undergraduate studies, a friend of mine died by suicide, due to anticipation that she’ll get a bad job placement. None of us had any clue of her suffering before she took the drastic step. I strongly felt that it could have been avoided had she sought some help. That is when I realized that even though we had counselors & psychologists on the campus, hardly anyone was seeking their support.
When Puneet and I started our careers together over a decade ago at the same company, we noticed how stressed people were around us. Job pressure, relationship issues, confidence or self-esteem issues, etc affected almost everyone. But we realized that people were very hesitant to talk about all this with a professional for two reasons:
There was just so much stigma around mental health. People were afraid that if others found out that they were seeking professional support, they would be labeled as ‘mad’ or ‘mental’ and that it would make them appear ‘weak’.
There’s hardly any awareness about mental health in our country. People are not well aware of what counseling is, let alone when they should seek it.
Driven by the need to solve the problem, we talked to a lot of people who had overcome struggles with some professional guidance and captured those experiences anonymously in a blog (origin of YourDOST). We were making a difference in terms of fighting stigma and spreading awareness. But here lay the next big gaps that needed to be filled:
a) There’s a huge lack of availability of quality mental health professionals in our country and over 13.81 crore Indians go without the professional support that they need.
b) Quality mental health support isn’t accessible for everyone as it can get quite expensive in India. A therapy session can cost Rs 800–2,500 per session and it can take up to 3 months of weekly sessions for therapy to be effective.
We had our task cut out. We put our heads together to see how we could tackle these challenges and thus YourDOST launched in 2014.
How can one benefit from YourDOST to overcome the distress?
We provide support in 2 ways:
1) B2B - Partnerships with Corporates and Educational Institutions:
With a focus on enhancing happiness and resilience and also impacting the overall culture of organizations, we provide interventions at 3 levels
a) Individual Level (Self-Care) — Through YourDOST’s website/app, individuals get 24x7 instant professional guidance
b) Team Level (Peer-Support) — We conduct tailor-made
training to help create and execute a peer support framework, and
a supportive and caring team culture.
c) Organizational Level (Workplace Culture) — We proactively work with organizations’ leadership through scientific analysis and data to help them understand and fill the gaps at an overall workplace level for building an
empathetic and high-performing culture.
2) B2C- Individuals
The professionally trained psychologists and coaches at YourDOST can help users cope with difficult times and also support you in their quest for self-improvement through -
Better Your Project: Mental health resources for mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Founders Program: An initiative by YourDOST, that aims to address the mental health needs of start-up founders
Career Decision Making Program, and Beat Loneliness, to name a few
What has been the most surprising learning in your journey with YourDOST so far?
It is extremely important that you know and learn about the sector you are working in. When we talked about our idea with mental health professionals, while some agreed that it’s okay to use technology, to go online, to provide mental health support, there were many members of the mental health community who didn’t share our beliefs.
The fact is that most sector disruptors have been “outsiders”. As an outsider, you bring a 3rd person perspective which is an advantage as you don’t carry the biases that traditional members of the sector might carry.
Any advice for other first-time female founders?
Many women founders shy from dreaming big and do not approach big investors. There are many women founders in SMEs but very few take the risk to set up a big business.
Also, networking and referrals which are extremely important in the start-up ecosystem do not come naturally to most women. I strongly believe that to increase the number of women-led startups, both women and investors need to take conscious steps including skill-building (be it networking, number alignment in business, and staying updated with technology changes in the interest of growing our business)
We women entrepreneurs need to be more supportive of each other. We should become more approachable to women who are new to the ecosystem.
Let’s conclude with one mental wellness tip from you/YourDOST team!
If I have to give one tip, this is something I keep telling my colleagues, as well as share it in our sessions too:
Be kind to your mind. We need to give our minds some rest and not go into the mode of criticizing, blaming ourselves for what happens.
If you had a bad day at work, do not take it personally and blame it on your capabilities. It is okay to have difficult emotions and accept them wholeheartedly. Talk to yourself like how you would console a friend. Be compassionate, it is okay to not be okay.
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