Published: 30th June 2021
Peer counselling made easy with the help of this NIT Agartala student's web-based therapy portal
Web-based portal Find Hope gives you several reasons to hold on to that elusive feeling of hope, even when it feels like you are completely down and out. This is how students can make the most of it
Parents, peers or professors — sometimes, no one cuts it when it comes to mental health, especially when you are a student. And let's not even get into the stigma of asking for money for therapy, which is too expensive anyway. What's the alternative? Something that Tharun Sai E, who was giving it his all to be accepted into one of the IITs, discovered the hard way when he attempted suicide. Since that day, he's espoused this wish in his heart that no one should ever go through the same gruelling experience for the want of a patient ear. It was in May 2020 that the 21-year-old started Find Hope and this is how it runs.
"The concept of peer counselling is not new, it is practised in many colleges. The youth get free physiological support from second-year psychology students who counsel them under the strict mentorship of practising psychologists," says this fourth-year Electrical Engineering student at NIT Agartala. This model has helped about 3,000 users so far.
They offer peer counselling in Tamil, Telugu, Bengali and Hindi. Their supervising psychologists are from Kolkata, Delhi and Hyderabad
The process that Find Hope follows is that anyone who approaches them for help via their website is asked to take a short test, which helps the team understand the kind of help the person is looking for. If their condition is mild to moderate, a counsellor is assigned and one to two free sessions are offered and if the case is more complicated, they are connected to experts. "As far as the supervisors are concerned, the peer counsellors connect with them every weekend to discuss every case," says the youngster. While, initially, the supervisors did it pro bono, now, the three they have are paid Rs 750-1,000 per session. And among the 100 peer counsellors, 20-30 work every week, depending on their academic load. "These students, who are the peer counsellors, have all the theoretical knowledge they need, but this opportunity gives them a shot at gaining solid practical knowledge," explains the entrepreneur about how he built the win-win situation for both supervisors and peer counsellors.
A glimpse from the portal
To spread awareness about the importance of mental health, Find Hope started mental health clubs at NIT Agartala, JNTU Kakinada and other institutes, and introduced a training model they call Emotional First-Aid. For just Rs 199, and this bare minimum is charged to ensure that only those who are truly interested follow through, students can learn about emotional aid, "just like we are all aware of physical aid," simplifies the youngster. So if there is a mild mental health problem, using the PDF modules and videos, they can help themselves and each other as the first step to solving the problem. The module might take up two hours of the student's time but the fact that it is split up into ten-minute crash courses makes it more palatable. They had 18 such clubs, but now, not many of them are active because of the pandemic.
The most common problems of those who approach them are relationship issues or taking to negative coping mechanisms like substance abuse
Peer counselling is done using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), broadly speaking. Also, activities like journaling and techniques like yoga, meditation, grounding exercises and progressive muscle relaxation therapy are used to ensure that when the counselling sessions conclude, students are equipped enough to take charge of their own mental health.
Find Hope is currently developing games based on emotional support building technology and, if all goes well, there'll be a game to help those in need too.
For more on them check out findhope.in