Published: 14th June 2020
Heart It Out provides counselling in 11 Indian languages and has a zero wait time policy
Nithya Rao, Psychologist and Founder of Heart It Out, talks about how mental health and counselling can shape people's life. They provide counselling in 11 different langauges to help speak out
While we are taught to take care of our body, we hardly know much about taking care of our mental health. But mental health is as important as physical health. And Nithya J Rao, Founder of Heart It Out, preaches (and yes, practises) the same. "I was only 19 years old when I underwent counselling for the first time and I felt good. There was a lot of positivity in my life and I have been able to achieve my goals for this reason. During this phase, I also realised that there was a shortage of psychologists in India and the treatment is costlier than we think. If a person is found to have mental health issues, they are taken to religious leaders instead of a medical professional. Why is there so much stigma attached to mental health? That's why I decided to start Heart It Out in 2017."
Nithya, who has done her Master's in Rehabilitation Psychology from Richmond Fellowship Society, says, "After the person recovers from their mental illness, they need to get a job, build relationships and get back to society. They can't live alone and depend only on medicines. Hence, I counsel people to redesign their lives and come back to society." Unlike other start-ups, Nithya did not start Heart It Out with a bunch of people. She rented out a small house and turned it into a clinic in Koramangala. Over time, her clients increased, three other counsellors joined Nithya. Now, the team consists of six counsellors and 45 interns.
In early 2018, Taha Ziadi who is from a Science and Technology background, joined Nithya's team as a co-founder. While Nithya handles the content and counselling, Taha handles the tech and the website. Nithya says, "Our organisation is technologically independent and data-driven. All our appointments get booked online and there is zero waiting time for an appointment. This means that each psychologist will handle only five clients per day and not beyond that. We track our clients by data and that helps us take appointments smartly."
What makes Heart It Out unique is that they provide therapy in 11 Indian languages. Nithya says, "We can't expect everybody to know English. Therefore, I encourage my psychologists to know one or two Indian languages as well. Currently, we are trying to improve our content and post it online in different languages too. There are clients who love our sessions and they bring their parents or elders. And we believe in speaking to them in their mother tongue so that they speak their heart out."
Nithya Rao is also part of theatre groups and often takes part in drama and plays
Brief Relief and Buddy Circle are two different initiatives that Heart It Out has taken up apart from counselling. While Brief Relief was started during the lockdown to help people deal with mental stress, Buddy Circle is a peer group where people can discuss their problems and find solutions. "Under the Brief Relief initiative, anyone can call us and speak to us about what they are going through. It is a 12-hour helpline that was started soon after the country went into lockdown. Meanwhile, Buddy Circle is a support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. The sessions happen every Saturday from 10 am to 12 pm. Every session has eight to ten members and a psychologist, there are different themes every week."
Apart from helping people deal with anxiety, relationships, work life, better lifestyle, depression, bipolar disorder and so on, Heart It Out has introduced a new category called Career Guidance three months ago especially for students and 15 students have already availed this option. Sharing what they do in Career Guidance, Nithya says, "When students approach us confused about what to choose to study, we perform IQ tests to help them understand their capabilities in particular courses and even help them apply for colleges and universities or even companies for jobs."
Nithya's biggest plan is to be present in every state in India. Currently, there are some states where there are no psychologists. She says, "Mizoram has no psychologists who can help people deal with mental problems. So I want to be present and accessible to people in every state. Apart from this, I want to be part of the research and the policymaking because policies in India are outdated. We need to create systems where the government can allocate funds and build better care for people."