As humans, we too have experienced depression, anxiety, narcissistic abuse, and other challenges that have impacted our mental well-being. During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the topic of mental health gained prominence, we founded Neuragram. Initially, our goal was to profit from the mental suffering of others, but during our primary research phase, we reconsidered our ethics and values. From April 2022 to October 2022, we worked with approximately 400 people with mental health issues to better understand the challenges and ethical considerations involved in building a mental health platform.

During the early days of our platform, we often received calls in the middle of the night and spent many sleepless nights providing support to people in need. We listened to their problems and helped connect them with professional help at no cost or at a very nominal fees. We were simply checking who can pay for our services.

We established a clinical facility in Patna, Bihar to launch our pilot phase and gain insight into the therapy process at the grassroots level. We also onboarded a seasoned psychologist who was eager and excited about our concept.

The constant exposure to negative experiences took a toll on us. For two consecutive months, June 2022 and July 2022, we found ourselves immersed in an environment of extreme negativity. We heard from individuals who wanted to end their life, survivors of childhood sexual abuse, and those struggling with depression due to infidelity from their partner. Despite the difficulties, we did our best to help and provide support. 

At times, we have had to end calls abruptly while someone was opening up about their suicidal thoughts due to their inability to pay for our services. This was a difficult experience for us, but we were not in the favor to provide ongoing support without payment. We were completely self-funded, and none of us were in favor of seeking venture capital funds. Nevertheless, we continued to strive to provide the best support we could to those in need till October 2022.

There came a point when our capitalistic strides got clashed with our ethical and moral beliefs. We had to get back to the drawing board again, and we rephrased our question from “who can pay from our services” to “How to make mental health support accessible to all’.

 Our revised goal is to make at least psychoeducation and basic support accessible to all, regardless of their financial status or location. We believe that everyone deserves the right to proper mental health care, and we strive to make that a reality. While the journey has been challenging, it has been fulfilling to see the positive impact we have made in people’s lives.

Our mid-term plan, Neuraschool, aims to provide psychoeducation and self-help tools to those struggling with mental health issues. We are also working on cost-effective therapy programs to address psychological disorders. When it comes to psychiatric interventions, we are taking our time to make informed decisions that align with our values and mission.

Our priority is not to become a unicorn startup, but to address the growing mental health crisis and make a difference in people’s lives. It is more satisfying than the glamour of raising funds, setting a corporate office in Singapore, Series A, Series B, exit rounds blah blah blah.

We are open to collaborate with Governments, Academic institutions, NGOs and work on solving mental health crisis at scale.

– Zeeshan Ali Aqudus, Co-founder, Neuragram