May 10

Happy Minds: Promoting mental health across Nepal - The Annapurna Express

In the past two years, suicide rate in Nepal has increased by 25 percent, according to a Nepal Police data. In an average, 19 people commit suicide every day. Mental health experts say there has been a sharp decline in mental wellbeing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Cases of stress, anxiety and depression went up during months-long lockdowns. And so did cases of suicide.   

Shreeya Giri, founder of Happy Minds and a mental health advocate, found herself struggling with her mental health during the pandemic. 

She was studying in London when covid started. The pandemic and lockdown took a severe mental toll on her. 

“I was clinically depressed,” she says. “I found myself constantly checking the news that gave me anxiety and sleep issues.”

Giri finally decided to seek professional help and tried to reach out to mental health service providers in Nepal offering online counseling. But, to her dismay, got no reply from them. 

She returned to Nepal in December of 2020, and soon realized that there weren’t many easily available mental health services for people who need it like she did. 

“It takes a lot to realize that you need help with your mental health, and to look around and find no one who can help you is a terrible feeling,” she says. “I wanted to do something to bridge that gap.” 

In April 2021, Giri founded Happy Minds, an online mental health and wellbeing platform that provides digital mental health literacy and mental health counseling services. The company raises awareness on mental health and psychology and offers people easy-to-access platform through which they can connect to mental health professionals both online and in-person. 

“From the very first day we started, we were already juggling between eight to 15 clients,” Giri says, “It just goes to show the state of people’s mental wellbeing.”  

With growing number of people in need of help, Happy Minds added more therapists who were passionate and willing to give any hour of their day to counsel a person in need of mental and emotional support. 

More than 2,500 people have already availed services provided by the mental health and well-being platform and the number is growing.

Happy Minds caters to the general public from all over Nepal. The platform only offered online counseling for the first six months before starting in-person sessions. It currently has a team of more than 20 mental health professionals specializing in different aspects of mental health to help the clients based on their specific needs. 

Happy Minds is also the first company in Nepal to introduce Employ Assistance Program (EAP), an initiative sponsored by companies to give free mental health services to their employees. Companies applying for this program get a 24/7 accessible toll free hotline service that their employees can reach. 

The company had been running for barely three months when it was nominated for the Global Startup Awards SAARC, an award that is given to startups that are positively disrupting the market and making a big impact in the society. Out of 2,500 nominees, Happy Minds was recently named one of the two finalists in the best newcomer category representing Nepal. 

Buoyed by the praise and success of the company, Happy Minds now wants to expand its services centers across the country. It aims to have at least one easily accessible mental health aid in every village, where people can reach out to for support, any time of the day.

It is also planning to bring out more learning and training programs to spread the importance of mental health and wellbeing, teach people how they can be aware and empathetic to themselves and others, and promote a healthy and sound mental health. Happy Minds also want to extend its EAP services to more companies, schools, and corporate houses. 

Giri says the state of mental health in Nepal is alarming and yet the government is doing very little to address it. Only one percent of the health budget was set aside for mental health in 2021. 

“The government should realize the importance of mental health and do more to help its many distraught and desperate citizens,” she says.

Becoming one of the regional finalists in the Global Startup Awards from the SAARC region has offered some hope to Giri and her company. 

If it wins, Happy Minds can access national and international donors, funds, resources and training programs. It can even draw attention to the current mental health status and how it can be improved.  


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