Introducing Mitsu

Mitsu is a guided self-therapy app for anyone feeling anxious or depressed. We are working towards closing India’s mental healthcare gap.

In India, mental health disorders are quite common. A 2020 study published in The Lancet estimated that about one in every seven Indians are living with a mental health disorder. The lifetime prevalence estimates are even higher, and one in every four Indians are likely to have a mental health disorder at some point in their lifetimes.


Mental health disorders are the leading contributors to the loss of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and extract a massive cost on our society and economy due to loss of productivity.


These numbers are becoming progressively worse every decade.


As grave as the above stats look, they hardly present a complete picture or even an accurate one. They fail on two counts.

First, they fail to convey the magnitude of emotional and personal struggle often experienced by individuals and families. These are the intangible costs of poor mental health.


Second, and more importantly, they offer no insight into the state of mental health of people who do not have a diagnosable mental health condition but whose mental health is still poor (about 85% of the population). Naturally, not everyone who is disease-free is in perfect mental health and thriving. In fact, this binary way of looking at the world, of diseased and disease-free, fails to recognize the needs of more than 85% of the population and leaves them without any viable and effective solutions to improve their mental health and well-being.


But, if being disease-free does not automatically imply good mental health, then what does it really mean to be mentally healthy?


Let’s consider this question first as it’s critical to get the definitions correct before we can say anything about how well we have performed, as individuals and as a country, towards promoting better mental health.


What is good mental health?


Contrary to popular perception, good mental health isn’t just about being free from mental and psychological disorders.


It is about how we feel under our skin and how happy and satisfied we are with our lives. It is about how close we feel to our families, peers, and colleagues and whether we feel connected and accepted within our communities. It’s also about how we perceive our own selves and whether we feel confident in our abilities to take on the challenges that life throws at us and find success and fulfillment.


Mental health is clearly more about the quality of the positive state than just the absence of the negative (diseased) state.

Mental health is a positive state of being that allows us to live a good life, whether it is finding meaning in our work or in our ability to form and enjoy deep and meaningful relationships, and cope with the normal stressors that life throws at us.

In fact, it is more accurate to measure mental health over a continuum or spectrum that ranges from poor mental health (known as a “languishing” state) to high mental health (a “flourishing” state). Each one of us falls at some point on this spectrum, and, as our life circumstances and ability to cope fluctuates, our place on the spectrum will change too.


As a person moves from a flourishing to a more middling mental health, and finally to a languishing state, their quality of life decreases, and their odds of developing more serious mental health conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety disorders increase by six times. Hence, it becomes the responsibility of every individual and society at large to promote ways of cultivating and preserving high mental health.


This brings us to the obvious question: how does one build and sustain good mental health? While we cannot control the world around us and the challenges we will face, we can all build skills for better mental and psychological resilience, which helps us cope better. Scientific evidence shows such skills can be acquired by anyone with practice and can have a great impact on the quality of our lives.


The goal of mental healthcare, therefore, should not only be to restore health for those with a diagnosed mental health condition but also to enable everyone else to learn and acquire these life skills.


How is India  performing on mental health as a country?


At this point, it is only natural to ask how well we are faring as a society and nation.


The answer to this question must address two key elements: Our attitude toward mental health and towards those who need support, and our availability and access to high-quality mental healthcare services.


Unfortunately, our performance remains woefully short on both parameters.


A general and pervasive lack of understanding and knowledge about mental health holds back our society. When a person who has just received a diagnosis of diabetes or cancer shares it with her friends, she is likely to receive a mix of well-meaning advice and empathy. Talking about a diagnosis of depression with friends, on the other hand, is likely to evoke silence and confusion, as even the most well-intentioned and otherwise educated people often lack the vocabulary and comfort to talk about the issue.


This ignorance has a lot to do with the disease-centric model that has held sway over our mental healthcare systems for decades. The disease-centric model delays seeking help by those in distress and has fueled stigma around mental health as it divides the world into distinct categories of those with a diagnosable illness and those without. In contrast, looking at mental health as a continuum has been shown to reduce stigma by placing everyone on a common scale and eliminating the perceived differentness of categories.


We have also failed to create adequate access to high-quality mental healthcare services for those who need them.  The National Mental Health survey found that 85% of those who suffer from a diagnosable mental health condition receive no treatment. This is due to a huge shortage of skilled manpower, with only <3,000 clinical psychologists and <10,000 psychiatrists to manage over 200 million people who have a mental health condition.


There are limited to no interventions to enable people without a diagnosable condition to build and sustain good mental health. The existing modes of care, including medication or psychotherapy, are neither effective and desirable nor viable given the shortage of skilled clinicians. Instead, we need newer models of care that are scientific, effective, and yet less reliant on the limited manpower at our disposal to make mental health more accessible for all.


Clearly, the need for better mental healthcare has never been any greater, and we need to act urgently and produce better solutions.


Why are we building Mitsu?


Mitsu means light.


Applied in the context of mental health, it’s a metaphor for hope and self-knowledge.


We believe in hope because it is one of the most powerful antidotes for an individual who is battling mental health problems.


We also believe in human ingenuity and our ability to solve difficult problems by the application of science and technology. 


Mitsu is a scientific, effective, and more-scalable solution designed to reach people with mental health struggles outside diagnostic standards.

Mitsu is an app-based program that applies proven clinical techniques to build skills that enable the user to:

(1) Better manage their immediate distress and improve their quality of life

(2) Achieve long-term mental and emotional resilience


We are a team of entrepreneurs, mental health professionals, and engineers who are building Mitsu to bridge the mental healthcare gap by bringing together the best of science and technology along with an unflinching resolve to make a difference.


Our vision is to build a future where mental health isn’t a barrier for anyone to live up to their fullest potential.

Join us if you believe in this future, too.


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