This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Shivani Gautam. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Research Team At IIT Kanpur Develops Online Tool That’ll Help With Mental Health Issues

More from Shivani Gautam

The researchers from the Department of Biological Sciences and Bio-engineering, IIT Kanpur, are working on a study to help individuals deal with mental health issues using helpful online tools. The team headed by Prof. Nitin Gupta, in collaboration with the Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Department of HSS (Psychology) and Dr. Alok Bajpai, Visiting Psychiatrist, Counseling Service at the Institute, have developed TreadWill.

TreadWill is a website which uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help individuals deal with depressive symptoms. In an interview with Campus Watch, Prof. Nitin Gupta spoke about TreadWill and mental health assistance for people.

Shivani Gautam: How would you describe TreadWill for the uninitiated audience?

Nitin Gupta: TreadWill is an online tool that provides the same type of psychotherapy that one gets in a one time session with a therapist. India has many people who suffer from various types of psychiatric problems like depression or anxiety but the number of therapists who are providing psychotherapy is very small. Also, most people are hesitant to talk to someone in person and want to remain anonymous. Considering these circumstances we developed TreadWill.

SG: Who all are a part of this project? Is this exclusively run by students and researchers at IIT Kanpur?

NG: The project started in my lab and has been worked upon by many students. Arko Ghosh, a PhD student, was one of the first ones to work on it and he has been helped by many other students. We have also taken help from our counseling service for ideas and content and taken suggestions from our psychiatrist Dr. Alok Bajpai.

SG: What was the motivation behind TreadWill? Why the name ‘TreadWill’?

NG: We wanted a name that is catchy and easy to remember and also somehow reflected the application that it performs. ‘TreadWill’ is derived from ‘treadmill’ which as you know is an exercise machine. Similarly, ‘TreadWill’ is like an exercise for the mind. We wanted to do something related to computer application, and IIT Kanpur provided the platform. My background is in neuroscience and we wanted to do something related to the brain. We thought about doing something that could help people with mental health issues.

SG: Do you think TreadWill could be an alternative to going to a psychiatrist?

NG: I wouldn’t use the word alternative because for severe cases certainly one should go to a psychiatrist. However, TreadWill could be very useful in mild to moderate cases. Also, it can be a complementary tool for someone who is visiting a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists usually have a tight schedule while TreadWill could be used at whichever time is convenient for the person in the privacy of their room.

SG: Currently, you are conducting a study to test TreadWill, how have people responded to it? How do you plan to market it further?

NG: We didn’t want to release the program before knowing how useful it is, right now it is in limited access. Once we see that it’s useful, we will release it for the public. So far more than 150 people have enrolled.

SG: What are your views on student suicides, especially in engineering colleges? How do you think the college administration can help in this regard?

NG: It has been a problem. I am aware of many suicide cases in different IITs, but I am sure it’s a general problem in most colleges. It’s not just a problem in India, MIT for instance has an even higher rate of suicide than colleges here. It’s a general problem in the student community because of the high competition or other pressures. One of the reasons why students reach this stage is because they don’t get early intervention. If they are provided some help while the case is mild then it may not aggravate into a suicide. One way the administration can help is by checking on students from time to time. So far colleges have counseling services but they are quite overburdened.

SG: The internet already has apps that deal with mental health issues like anxiety or depression, how is TreadWill different from these?

NG: One of the basic problems of these apps is that they are not very engaging. People do use them but soon get very bored and don’t bother using them anymore. So, we focused on making the content more engaging and personalized. In most apps, every user gets pretty much the same content and most aren’t personalized to an individual’s need. This is what we have tried to do, we have made the content more personalized and are working within that paradigm.

SG: There is a lot of stigma attached to mental health, especially in India it is ignored. People are often afraid or embarrassed to ask for help . How do you think we can combat this issue? Did you consider this before working on TreadWill?

NG: The stigma is obviously one of the major problems. There are people who realize they are going through these issues but aren’t willing to go to a therapist because they are embarrassed. These people can especially get benefitted by our automated tool because it maintains anonymity. I guess when more people become aware of this problem, it will help them to treat it. There are some initiatives which have been started to raise awareness about mental health but I think we need more of these to normalize mental health issues and make people more comfortable discussing it. We will have to work upon the availability of diagnosis too for the people.

_

Image source: Prasad Gori/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Shivani Gautam

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below